Following the announcement earlier this month that Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) had agreed to pay USD1.85 billion for 100% of the equity of privately-owned, Barbados-based telecoms provider Columbus International, regional telecoms regulator the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ECTEL) has said it will ‘carefully monitor the situation and advise the Ministers accordingly to ensure that consumers continue to benefit from a choice of service providers and services’.
In a communique regarding current issues in the telecoms sector in ECTEL member states, the watchdog confirmed that, having reviewed the preliminary information available, and in consultation with the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commissions (NTRCs) in its Member States, it noted that there was ‘deep concern that this development can potentially result in a negative impact on competition’. Meanwhile, although ECTEL confirmed that the providers involved had not yet made specific submissions to the regulator regarding the deal, it said it deemed the matter ‘to be of sufficient public interest to provide an initial statement’.
With CWC and Columbus International having outlined plans to create a combined business operation in the Caribbean and Latin America, the duo had suggested that the proposed transaction would result in benefits for consumers, including stronger networks and more investment and innovation. However, ECTEL highlighted the fact that licence holders could be considered to be in breach of their concession if they engage in ‘activities which can have the effect of unfairly preventing, restricting or distorting competition’. With the regional body saying that the possible combining of the CWC and Columbus operations could have a ‘negative impact’ on the telecoms sector, it added that it had provided further impetus for the revision of existing legislation and rules governing competition in the sector, including the proposed new Electronic Communications Bill. As such, ECTEL and the five NTRCs will intensify collaboration with other regulators in the Caribbean region to seek further information in order to advise the Member Governments on the issue.