URCA in 'final touches' on third mobile player review


Tribune Business Reporter


Regulators are completing the "final touches" to their assessment of whether The Bahamas can sustain a third mobile operator and have submitted their recommendation to the Government for its final decision.

Rupert Pinder, the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority's (URCA) director of electronic communications, told the public hearing on its 2023 annual plan that the review has essentially been completed and the issue passed to the Government for further action.

Elsewhere, he said the review of the retail market for fixed communications services, such as broadband Internet, fixed-line phone and TV/video, will not be finished by 2024 because these typically take a year-and-a-half to complete.

“The last time that we had to review the retail market for fixed services was like around 2014," Mr Pinder said, "and just to give you some background in terms of what are we talking about here.... So for the fixed market, you essentially have fixed voice or what everybody refers to as landline. You have fixed broadband, or in other words, Internet is provided at a fixed location, as well as your pay television.”

URCA also reviews “over the top services”, such as Netflix and Apple TV. “BTC has significant market power (SMP) in the provision of fixed voice services, or what we know as landline services essentially. Cable Bahamas, on the other hand, is deemed to have SMP in the provision of pay television," Mr Pinder added.

With this status comes certain obligations, as well as regulatory restrictions, which are imposed on SMP operators to prevent them from abusing their market power by engaging in anti-competitive behaviour that harms or drives out rivals. “What the review will determine is whether or not those regulations or obligations are still fit for purpose,” Mr Pinder added.

URCA will especially focus on how "over the top" services are competing with traditional counterparts, which is already occurring in mobile services with the likes of What's App. “Again, the whole purpose of this review is to ensure that your regulations are still fit for purpose and that's a very extensive exercise,” Mr Pinder said.

Mr Pinder also chided operators for not providing data to URCA in a timely fashion, which he added hinders efforts to properly regulate the telecommunications sector.

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