Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Flow asserts merger benefits

Published:Monday | June 15, 2015 | 6:00 AM
Gail Abrahams
Rochelle Cameron, head of legal and regulatory-north and company secretary.
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Consumer protection and customer service remain paramount for the newly merged telecommunications company Cable and Wireless-Columbus. The merged entity seeks to engage all stakeholders. Cable and Wireless/Columbus has stated its commitment to:

1. Local number portability (LNP).

2. Investment in the telecoms market

3. Customer service.

These three matters are part of a strategic way forward to take Jamaica and the Caribbean to excellence in the global telecoms market.

"Cable and Wireless, which trades as LIME in Jamaica, has championed the call for local number portability. We believe that customers want the convenience of switching providers without switching their number," said Rochelle Cameron, head of legal and regulatory affairs at LIME.

In May, LIME took the bold step of seeking an extension of the approval date for LNP in the best interest of the public. The extension was sought on the basis that the crucial testing for all operators of the protocols to ensure successful porting was not complete.

"LIME believes that it would be prudent to complete testing to ensure that we have a robust LNP service to offer to its customers. This additional period of testing will avoid unnecessary disruption and inconvenience to customers and ensure that the most reliable LNP platform is implemented. We are committed to meeting the new launch date and expect that consumers and the country's telecoms infrastructure will benefit greatly from the minister's decision to extend. We all simply want to get it right and therefore any characterisation of the minister's extension of the date as a failure is inappropriate," added Cameron.

 

Convergence is good

 

It is critical for any discussion on telecoms to acknowledge that convergence is suitable for smaller, low-income per-capita countries such as Jamaica. Consequently, the combination of CWC and Columbus will help to better address our customers' needs. Customers are more demanding, they expect higher levels of innovation and service and they want more contributions to the social and economic development of the community.

The merger is consistent with global industry trends, where convergence of fixed and mobile networks, increasing content consumption growth, and continuing development of online applications are driving requirements for high bandwidth, fixed-line networks and TV capabilities.

In the meantime, CWC's commitment to invest some US$400m in the region and diversify its job offerings will ensure the company competes on a global level in the robust global broadband market. It is clear that the Jamaican telecoms environment is robust and competitive and that the broadband and TV markets are key areas of growth. Digicel has also been investing heavily in rolling out its network and has made acquisitions in the TV market through the purchase of Telstar and SportsMax.

Our competitor, Digicel, was able to acquire, with regulatory approval, more than 85 per cent of market share in Jamaica following the Claro acquisition and was able to retain Claro's spectrum holding. LIME commends the minister for his efforts in ensuring that amendments were made to the Jamaica's Telecoms Act 2012 that levelled the playing field and ensures that, going forward, there will be healthy and fair competition in the market. This has already resulted in reduced wholesale rates between carriers and more than a 500 per cent rate reduction for mobile customers.

There is legislation in place that allows the regulators to act to ensure competition is promoted and maintained. In granting approval for the merger, the minister observed the provisions of the Jamaican Telecoms Act and sought the recommendation of the regulator. The approval included an extensive set of conditions, such as LNP implementation, connection to and peering at the Internet exchange point and access to infrastructure sharing.

The significant investment in submarine cable facilities in Jamaica is indicative of a strong investment climate for ICT and that potential investors can rest assured that their ICT needs will be more than adequately met. In fact, prior to the merger, CWC-Columbus had entered into a joint venture agreement for the provision of submarine cable facilities. This joint venture has to date not been challenged as anti-competitive and what can be seen is that the facilities continue to be provided at very competitive prices.

There has been no indication that there are any issues regarding price or accessibility. We need markets for these assets and doing anything to constrain access to them will only reduce our revenue and the growth of this business for our stakeholders.

We ask for the public not to be drawn into political or special-interest debates decrying what will be an overall improvement in the telecoms landscape.

- Gail Abrahams is director of corporate communications. Email feedback to columns@gleanejrm.com and gabrahams@columbus.co.