Solomon Islands to offer 3rd mobile licence

3 Dec 2010

The Solomon Islands has confirmed that it will issue the country’s third mobile licence next year, just months after the October 2010 launch of the country’s second operator, bemobile. Making the announcement, communications commissioner Nick Williams indicated that he hopes to be able to award the licence by March next year, with a view to the winning operator rolling out commercial services within a six-month time frame. Caribbean-based telecoms firm Digicel – which operates in 32 markets across the Caribbean, Pacific and Central American regions – is rumoured to be interested in the licence, after two previous attempts at entering the Solomon Islands’ wireless sector were scuppered by the regulator. Digicel was granted a licence in 2006, only to be blocked from launching a network by incumbent Solomon Telekom, and when the second licence was tendered in 2009, bemobile got the nod instead. Williams added that the licence will include an option to offer 3G services.

Industry regulator the Telecommunications Commission Solomon Islands (TCSI) will reportedly issue a formal request for applications in January. The tender will take the form of an auction, but the financial bid will not be a ‘licence fee’ as such, but rather a performance bond guaranteeing network coverage obligations. The licensee will be required to cover a specified percentage of the country’s population within a certain time period, which is thought to be 35% within twelve months. Further, the TCSI has said that it will charge the winning operator 2% of its gross of revenues, again in lieu of a licence fee. According to the Solomon Star newspaper, the Islands will be the first country in the South Pacific to have more than two telecoms operators if a third operator enters the market next year.

Solomon Islands