Government accepts URCA’s findings that third mobile operator “not commercially viable” at this time

Government accepts URCA’s findings that third mobile operator “not commercially viable” at this time

NASSAU, BAHAMAS- The government has determined that based on recommendations from the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA), that a third mobile operator would not be “commercially viable” at this time. 

The findings were unveiled in the regulator’s draft electronic communication’s sector policy for 2023-2026. It was noted that under the 2020 – 2023 ECS Policy, the government requested URCA to provide advice and recommendations including a feasibility and market analysis, to support any recommendations regarding the further liberalization of the cellular mobile market in The Bahamas. 

“URCA has provided the requested advice and recommendations, which this Government has taken under advisement. IRA’s considered assessment has indicated that a third mobile entrant would not be commercially viable or further the policy objective of promoting sustainable competition in the cellular mobile market at this time. Therefore, the Government, during the life of this policy, proposes to refrain from introducing further competition in the cellular mobile market,” the ECS policy document stated.

It was further noted that within this context, a key policy objective of the Government is to ensure that the market continues to deliver positive benefits to consumers in the future. This is especially in light of URCA’s concern  that the competitive dynamics between the two existing mobile operators the Bahamas Telecommunications Company Ltd. and BeAliv Limited may change in the future.

The government has urged  URCA to closely monitor the progress and developments in the market with a view to ensuring that the cellular mobile market “continues to exhibit effective and sustainable competition, including the merits of encouraging further entry at a later stage should the current market structure fail to deliver competitive outcomes.”

The policy document also noted that the government is committed to advancing 5G technology for the provision of electronic communications services. 

“The achievement of this strategic aim will be facilitated by the Government through promoting investment in the deployment of 5G networks throughout The Bahamas and the development of a regulatory framework by URCA for the advancement of emerging technologies, including, but not limited to 5G, the policy document noted.

URCA recently released its consultation document on proposed revisions to the consumer protection regulations for the country’s electronic communications sector.  The regulations were originally introduced nearly a decade ago. The regulator noted in a statement that given the time that has passed since the regulations were published, the changes that have occurred in the sector markets, and URCA’s experience with handling consumer complaints since 2013, it has proposed revisions intended to modernize the regulations.

The statement further stated that its recommendations are intended to “clarify ambiguous parts of the regulations” and “issue new measures in areas where consumers were not protected.”

“Some key areas where changes are proposed to better protect consumers are: broadening the scope of who should provide a minimum level of service to consumers; making consumers more aware of fair use policies; ensuring consumers are fully aware of all aspects of the service they are paying for; ensuring consumers are not misled by advertisements of unlimited services; better informing consumers of planned and unplanned service outages; more easily opting out of receiving unsolicited text messages that contain advertisements; and reducing the allowed length of time for resolution of consumer complaints,” URCA wrote. The consultation document also contains other changes intended to strengthen consumer protections.