Aliv: Govt must choose between third mobile network or 5G  

The government will have to choose between whether it wants to approve a third mobile operator or invest in 5G technology, Aliv said in its recent response to the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority’s (URCA) draft annual plan for 2021.

URCA published its draft annual plan 2021 in December, in which it renewed its intention to conduct a market review of mobile services and provide the government with recommendations on whether the further liberalization of the mobile telephone market should be undertaken in the form of a third mobile operator.

In its official comments on the plan, Be Aliv Limited noted that the uncertainty over whether there would be a third mobile operator would have a chilling effect on the investment plans of the existing operators and in particular will delay any investments in 5G.

As a result, Aliv stated that URCA needs to complete its review with the utmost urgency so that the government can make its decision on the matter by the end of September 2021.

“We suggest that URCA should base its recommendation about the third mobile operator on whether the retail mobile market is competitive or not, rather than on extraneous factors such as the government’s need to raise additional revenues. URCA would need to review the retail mobile market for price competitiveness and innovation, as part of this project,” Aliv stated in its response paper that was released by URCA last week.

“In The Bahamas, a decision on a third operator will have a direct impact on investment decisions to be made by the existing two mobile operators. The government may be faced with a decision on whether it wants a third network operator or investment in 5G networks. URCA’s review needs to include this dimension.”

Pointing out that much of the profits earned by mobile operators in previous years have been competed away or returned to customers through lower prices, Aliv stated that the business for new network operators is difficult in most countries given the need for investment, particularly regarding the capacity for providing data and 5G services.

“URCA needs to review its processes for issuing additional spectrum to the existing operators, so that there is a fast and simple application and decision making process,” Aliv stated.

“With the huge expansion in the public’s demand for mobile broadband data services, operators need to access additional spectrum in order to maintain their quality of service to customers. Faster and more flexible processes will become more urgent with the advent of 5G.”

Aliv has also suggested URCA reduce its regulation of spectrum to, for example, allow operators to optimize their spectrum holdings through a spectrum trading scheme.

In March, URCA launched a review of its spectrum management and noted in its 2021 annual plan that this year it intends to conduct a comprehensive compliance analysis of the radio communication equipment of spectrum licensees throughout The Bahamas.

Last month, Attorney General Carl Bethel said in the Senate that “5G is coming” as government seeks to have it implemented in this “lifetime”.

Bethel said operators had already submitted their recommendations to government on the implementation of 5G, which is the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks and the successor to the 4G networks which provide the connectivity of most current cellular phones.

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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