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Sumner: Changes to mobile sector liberalization timeline’unfair’

President and CEO of IP Solutions International Limited(IPSI)Edison Sumner toldGuardian Businessyesterday that the government’s decision to change the timeline of the liberalization of the mobile sector to three years after the privatization of The Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC), is creating an unlevel playing field for others wanting to tap into that market.”The articles in the public sector policy[state]only 12 months after the privatization of BTC for others to enter the cellular voice market,”Sumner said.”They are obviously straying away from that policy and it means that the government has to go back and amend the Communications Act to accommodate for that extension.

“We feel that it’s creating further unfairness in the market. The government seems to be on the face of it acquiescing to the demands of the strategic partner coming and it’s breeding a further state of a market that’s increasingly becoming more anti-competitive.”

Sumner’s comments came after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the government and Cable&Wireless in regards to the$210 million sale of BTC was announced yesterday in the House of Assembly. The sale price is close to$50 million less than telecoms company Bluewater offered for the corporation.

The IPSI head added the timeline change will have a major impact on his company’s plans to enter the cellular market, and will impact the plans of other telecoms firms as well, noting that three years is a lengthy period to wait to launch its mobile offerings.”It is a long time, companies have been planning on making the relevant necessary applications for that service,”he said.”Now that this has come to light everybody has to go back to the drawing board.

“It will certainly have an effect on our plans to make an application for mobile voice services in the country, and others who have similar ambitions will have similar concerns as we do.”

A press statement from the government, released shortly after the signing of the MOU with C&W was announced, states:”The government plans to amend the timeline for liberalization of the mobile sector, so that the liberalization will commence no sooner than three years after privatization.

“As a result of the privatization of BTC and liberalization of the cellular market, it is expected that consumers will benefit from more affordable access to higher quality services across all regions of The Bahamas.”

Sumner is hoping that the timeframe will be reconsidered, so that companies wanting to enter the market can do so without being three years behind Cable and Wireless.

“We hope that during this time that through further negotiations that they will have cause to reconsider their position, and allow the public sector policy to stand for what it’s worth,”he said.Guardian Businesswas unable to reach Cable Bahamas for comment–another potential entrant in the mobile market–up to press time, but a company representative said an official statement will be released soon.

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