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Final stage of bidding for cellular licence begins

By SANCHESKA BROWN

Tribune Staff Reporter

sbrown@tribunemedia.net

AFTER a five-month delay, the final phase of the selection process for the country’s second mobile services provider has begun, the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority announced yesterday.

URCA said the spectrum auction between Cable Bahamas Ltd and Virgin Mobile Bahamas Limited began at 10am on Monday.

In February, Prime Minister Perry Christie said he hoped to announce the successful applicant for the second mobile licence in April.

However, in May, Mr Christie said after consultation with the Cellular Liberalisation Task Force and their advisors, the process was delayed to “ensure the integrity of the selection process was preserved.”

“The auction is a multi-round process with bidders placing ascending financial bids in each round, which will continue until there is a single remaining winning bidder,” URCA’s statement yesterday said.

“In November 2014, Prime Minister Perry Christie, the minister responsible for the electronic communications sector (ECS), decided the method for allocating and pricing (the) cellular mobile spectrum in accordance with Section 30 of the Communications Act, 2009. The government then initiated a competitive selection process that would result in the authorisation of one additional cellular provider.

“Phase one of the process, the technical assessment of proposals, was completed in April 2015 and was executed and managed by the Cellular Liberalisation Task Force (CLTF), appointed by the government. URCA is responsible for the execution of phase two of the process, the auction phase, on behalf of the government. At the conclusion of the auction, an announcement will be made in accordance with the process.”

In May, the task force announced the completion of the first phase of the selection process, with Cable Bahamas and Virgin Mobile Bahamas left to battle for the second cellular licence.

A third applicant, Digicel Bahamas Ltd, withdrew from the process before that announcement.

Mr Christie has also said the Cellular Liberalisation Task Force, formed last April, and has drafted transaction documents to govern a partnership with the government that will allow for a 49-51 per cent ownership split with the selected company.

Mr Christie has said that Bahamian investors will own the 51 per cent.

He said the government had a requirement for the new cellular company to have “broad Bahamian ownership”.

The government will not be able to issue a licence to a third mobile operator before April 5, 2016. According to the task force, the government intends to delay the possible entry of a third mobile operator for “at least three years” from the commercial launch of the second cellular operator.

Comments

Tarzan 8 years, 9 months ago

"Mr Christie has also said the Cellular Liberalisation Task Force, formed last April has drafted transaction documents to govern a partnership with the government that will allow for a 49-51 per cent ownership split with the selected company. Mr Christie has said that Bahamian investors will own the 51 per cent."

Maybe BEC could own 51% of the new mobile carrier....or perhaps Bank of the Bahamas. That would certainly guarantee a high level of service along with scrupulous integrity and we could avoid the messy process of finding new Bahamian ownership. It could be the same chaps who own and run those two enviably efficient enterprises.

John 8 years, 9 months ago

Christie should have gotten a partnership with Bah Mar for the $1.5 billion they got in concessions at the expense of he people of the Bahamas. Now all of this can easily slip into the hands of Chinese ownership. Only the selected (or elected ) few were given the opportunity to invest.

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