Digicel, Islandcom win 700MHz LTE licences, squeeze out LIME

22 Feb 2013

The Turks and Caicos Islands Telecommunications Commission has awarded two 700MHz spectrum mobile frequency licences for 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) services to Digicel (Turks and Caicos) and Islandcom, following a two-stage bidding process that ran for around six months and a consultation process that commenced in early 2011. The Commission made its decision after weighing up applicants’ statements of their LTE rollout strategies and how they intended to benefit the population. Under the licence conditions established by the Commission both Digicel and Islandcom are required to deploy 4G LTE mobile broadband services using the 700MHz band within 18 months, and coverage must be available to 98% of the population within 36 months. In return for being awarded its preferred 700MHz spectrum block (the ‘Lower B & C’ portion), Digicel agreed to improve on these deployment requirements so that at least 75% of the population would have access to 4G LTE services within 18 months and 98% within 30 rather than 36 months. The second 700MHz spectrum block (‘Upper C’) was assigned to Islandcom.

In addition to its faster rollout targets, Digicel made a commitment to provide: free internet service to all public/government schools (including both campuses of the Community College); subsidised 4G LTE devices and data bundles for all students and teachers in the country; and ‘Digital Classroom’ facilities to all public/government secondary and post-secondary schools free of charge.

TeleGeography observes that Digicel launched GSM mobile services in Turks and Caicos in 2006, and in November 2012 announced the imminent rollout of a W-CDMA/HSPA network in partnership with Ericsson, while Islandcom launched the country’s first W-CDMA network in 2010 and upgraded to HSPA+ in July 2012. Note that the two 700MHz licence winners beat their long-established rival Cable & Wireless Turks and Caicos (LIME), which operates mobile, wireline and fixed broadband networks.