The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) is pushing for a 30-day national roaming deal with Aliv so that both carriers’ customers can receive the best coverage available from both companies’ remaining towers on Abaco and Grand Bahama, BTC Chief Executive Officer Garfield Sinclair said yesterday.
Speaking to the media at BTC’s headquarters, Sinclair said Hurricane Dorian was “unequivocally” the worst storm he has ever seen and explained that it is important for both Aliv and BTC to do their part to give the best access to communication to the remaining people on those two islands hardest hit by the hurricane.
Sinclair said national roaming is now up and BTC and Aliv are waiting to finalize and sign the agreement that will govern its terms.
Aliv said on Sunday that it was looking at 14 days for national roaming to be in play, but Sinclair contended yesterday that he would like to see it active for 30 days.
The deal will allow both Aliv and BTC customers to roam on each others’ networks without either carrier charging the other roaming fees.
“The focus first is to bring the mobile network back up and it is customary when you have natural disasters like this, you try and immediately get a national roaming deal done so you avail customers of all of the towers that are up,” Sinclair said.
“I was a little surprised to see my competitor come out in the paper yesterday claiming time frames. We don’t have a signed agreement yet.
“As you know, we opened up our network and made it free for voice and data for the entire country until Sunday. On Sunday we relegated it to free voice and data on the two affected islands.
“Any agreement we conclude with our competitor, we are hoping will accommodate the fact that we think it is necessary to leave in place a situation where our ravaged and devastated communities in those two islands continue to be able to communicate with both voice and data free of charge.”
The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) gave both carriers until Friday to have a national roaming deal signed.
“They’ve given us a little extra time given how thorny that issue is,” Sinclair said.
Meanwhile, Sinclair said BTC is “feverishly” working to bring its networks back up to where it will be able to discontinue the national roaming deal before 30 days.
He said the company has deployed cell-on-wheels, or mobile towers, erected in Marsh Harbour to bring service back to those left in those communities.
Sinclair explained that he could not estimate BTC’s losses at this point as it would be “wild speculation”.
“Suffice to say the damage has been massive,” he said.
Despite BTC’s losses, Sinclair said he was happy to learn recently that all of BTC’s employees on both Abaco and Grand Bahama have been accounted for. He said the company evacuated about 160 of its people, including their families.
“That was our main focus in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane,” he said.
‘We’ve got them here in Nassau and we’re on to the next phase obviously of working with them, of getting them back to a semblance of normalcy. So on the people side I feel real comfortable about where we are and how we managed the process of accounting for and safeguarding our people.”