Telecommunication companies battle over LTE licence

Telecommunications provider, Flow is taking Minister of Infrastructure Development and Public Utilities, Gregory Bowen and several other parties to court in its efforts to get the Long Term Evolution (LTE) licence granted by government to its rival, Digicel be revoked.

Public Utilities Minister, Gregory Bowen – it is highly unlikely that the license will be revoked

In making the announcement Tuesday in St. George’s, Minister Bowen said that Flow is also taking legal action against the regulating body known as the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) and the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC).

During a sitting of the House of Representatives in December 2018, Minister Gregory Bowen briefed Parliament about the development arising between Digicel and Flow on the LTE licence issue.

Speaking at the first post-Cabinet Briefing for 2019 at the Ministerial Complex on Tuesday, the senior government minister told reporters that both Digicel and Flow applied around the same time for the license but the former applied for a specific region where there was no competition, which made a difference in the license being granted to them.

Minister Bowen said: “Way back, years ago, when we started giving the 700 band, the 700 mega watts, that’s the band that they want to do the LTE in…just by way of explanation again… you have the 1900 bands…you make the phone call on it…it’s still a phone call you’ll make but not a lot (of) data would be going through and the smaller the wave lengths, the more difficult some things are and the larger the wave lengths the easier for some things to be done.

“…So companies now started to apply for what we call the 700 band…Digicel and Flow applied about the same time but Digicel applied for a specific region in the band that they had no contest with from another provider. Flow applied for a region but Aislecom also applied for that region…so if we had no Aislecom, then Flow would have gotten it but we have Aislecom and Flow.

According to Minister Bowen, Flow and Aislecom were asked by the regulator to go and see if they can reach a consensus on the issue but the parties were unable to come to an agreement.

“We asked them, go and sit around the table and see if you can move up and down because there are other bits there but nobody wants to go there because in this specific band there are the mighty and powerful producers in the US making phones there, so, it’s cheap. If you go there, the guys will say wait two years…and your price will be higher but when you go where it’s mass produced for the others, that’s why they want to go there, both parties.

“So, we understand and we asked them can you share up these things amongst yourselves in the manner that the ECTEL would have decided that is 6 megawatts up, 6 megawatts down; shift the 6 wherever you two wish. So, they’re still fighting but Digicel alone there…so what do you tell Digicel wait until you have these two? No. So, Digicel was granted the license and if these two parties come back to us and say, here, we have a plan, they would have been granted right away.

In the face of the disagreement, Minister Bowen said that Flow saw it as government showing favourtism towards Digicel and as a result legal action has been instituted against himself, ECTEL and NTRC to “force the minister hands” in revoking the license granted to Digicel.

“… I have been served, ECTEL has been served, and the NTRC has been served, so the case in the process now and they’re asking the court to review and to force the minister”, he said.

So, if …in the extremely unlikely case that the court said yes, revoke, ok, then the license will be revoked but it is only in these extreme circumstances,” he added.

Minister Bowen did not rule out the possibility of Aislecom approaching the court to protect its own interest in the issue and taking action against both him and NTRC.

“… What has happened now, Aislecom, a local company, is now saying oh, so if they’re asking for this and I want there too, now they’re going to take the minister to court, Aislecom as well. You can’t blame them. Why should you blame them? They must protect themselves as well and they’re going to take the NTRC to court, not because of wickedness or hostility but that’s the way they have to safeguard themselves…that’s a possibility.

“…Flow has gone from possibility to reality (with the court action) but Aislecom, obviously, and we knew before that’s what their lawyers will do. What will Digicel do too? Would Digicel stand idly by? We don’t think so. They have to protect themselves. They may ask to be joined in the lawsuit, or they may go and propose a counter lawsuit.

“We have our lawyers advising us of all these possibilities – they (Digicel and Aislecom) cannot sit and take their deaths as a sheep and (will) go and defend in front the court…so it may get more entangled and more entangled.

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