Newcomer Aliv close to agreeing national roaming deal with BTC

28 Mar 2017

Newcomer to the Bahamian wireless market Aliv has reportedly run into difficulties securing a national roaming agreement with incumbent and former monopoly holder the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), whilst deals concerning network and infrastructure sharing have also been delayed, Tribune Business writes, citing Aliv executive Damian Blackburn. According to the official, Aliv is close to signing a deal for national roaming and could have the service working in four to six weeks of inking the pact. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, telecoms watchdog the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) in July 2016 ordered BTC to provide national roaming on its network for a 24-month period from Aliv’s launch, to allow it to offer services nationwide whilst it built out its own network. Mr Blackburn’s comments suggest, however, that BTC has not complied with the direction. URCA made no mention of the omission in its February 2017 announcement, which assessed Aliv’s compliance with the network rollout obligations of its concession.

Meanwhile, Aliv has also been attempting to negotiate with BTC over potential co-location on its sites, but has similarly been slowed down. ‘Although we were prepared to build ourselves, and [have] acquired options on 100 sites so that we could, the policy of URCA is that where it is technically feasible to co-locate operations, the preference is co-location,’ the official explained, adding: ‘Whilst we lost a bit of patience trying to agree co-location between last July and early this year, we went out and acquired sites to build, and filed for permission to build with URCA. BTC indicated that we’d co-locate [but] if we’re slowed down in the process, we will revert to “Plan A”, which is to build.’ In the meantime, Aliv is forging ahead with its network rollout in areas where the regulator has given it permission to do so, and by the end of 2017 only 10% to 20% of sites on the Family Islands will be left if co-location continues to be delayed.

Finally, Mr Blackburn said that the third piece of co-operation Aliv needs from BTC is a transmission agreement that would allow it to use BTC’s submarine cable network, which connects many of the country’s outlying islands: ‘We need a transmission deal from BTC on the Bahamas Domestic Submarine Network (BSDN). There will be ramped up discussions with them once the co-location and build-out is nailed down. We’ll expect BTC to give replies to our previous proposals.’