Aliv challenges BTC statement on network sharing

10 Apr 2017

Former cellular monopolist the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and mobile newcomer Aliv have locked horns over a long-delayed co-location agreement, after a press release by the former was immediately contradicted by the latter, the Tribune 242 reports. In a statement released by BTC last week, the operator announced that it had signed an agreement for tower sharing with Aliv, allowing the new entrant to offer mobile services in areas where it has yet to complete its own infrastructure rollout. According to the statement, BTC would charge Aliv a ‘nominal fee’ for the use of its mobile sites, with the smaller company operating as an MVNO in such areas. BTC noted that whilst it would receive ‘some level of compensation,’ it stressed that the payment ‘pales in comparison to the investment that we have made over the many years we have provided services’. As such, the incumbent suggested that Aliv’s participation in the sector was not fair and did not represent ‘competition in its true essence.’ BTC added that it had received co-location requests for more than 30 sites across Andros and Grand Bahama as well as numerous sites in Abaco, Acklins, Berry Island, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, Ragged Island, San Salvador, Rum Cay and New Providence.

In a rebuttal to BTC’s statement, Aliv revealed that it had not signed an agreement, having only received the final terms of the co-location from BTC on Wednesday afternoon – the day before BTC published its statement. Consequently, Aliv is still reviewing the document to ensure that the offer met its requirements. For its part, Aliv also pointed out that BTC has dragged its feet on the matter, noting in its statement: ‘We have been waiting for these final terms since summer 2016, when we first and proactively requested co-location from BTC. We welcome BTC’s recent decision to provide co-location to Aliv, despite the length of time that this has taken.’

The newcomer also took issue with the accuracy of other parts of BTC’s statement, with Aliv keen to dispute BTC’s claim that it would only receive a nominal fee for co-location. Aliv would instead be paying a ‘market rate’ for its use of the sites: ‘In line with the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) regulations, the rate that BTC will charge Aliv is the same rate offered to other such third parties currently using BTC sites in a similar fashion’. Finally, Aliv CEO Damian Blackburn refuted BTC’s claim that its smaller rival would be operating as an MVNO on its network, saying: I would like to assure the people of the Bahamas that this is not an MVNO agreement where the MVNO leases the network from a mobile operator. Instead, this agreement will enable Aliv to deploy its world-class LTE network on every island, rock and cay of the Bahamas, and BTC will earn the industry standard market rate in return for use of its towers.’

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Mr Blackburn indicated in late March that BTC had yet to comply with an order from the regulator to provide Aliv with a national roaming service for a two-year period, whilst the latter completed the rollout of its own infrastructure. Telecoms watchdog URCA also encouraged the two mobile providers to share infrastructure wherever possible, but the official claims BTC has been slow to cooperate with the newcomer, forcing it revert to its original plan to simply rollout all new infrastructure.