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Symbiote dodges first bullet - DPP refuses to press charges over spectrum use

Published:Wednesday | February 1, 2017 | 12:00 AMArthur Hall
Paula Llewellyn

Under pressure, telecoms firm Symbiote, which is facing a possible revocation of its spectrum licence, has dodged the first bullet fired at it by the State.

The Gleaner has learnt that Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn has ruled that there is not enough information to bring charges against the company for its alleged use of the spectrum before it was issued a licence.

On Monday, the police confirmed that the DPP had made a ruling in the matter but refused to provide details. Llewellyn also said that she would not comment at this time.

But yesterday, sources close to the issue told The Gleaner that following a complaint by the Spectrum Management Authority (SMA), the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Branch of the police carried out a probe into allegations of illegal use of the spectrum by Symbiote and submitted a file to the DPP.


Evidence was not enough


The sources said that the DPP responded, saying that the evidence was not enough to push for a prosecution of the principals of the company, which trades as Caricel.

"The ruling has come as a shocker to many as the SMA was confident that it could prove that Caricel was illegally operating on the spectrum between November 2015 and September 2016 before it was awarded a spectrum licence," said a government source close to the telecoms sector.

"I understand that the DPP ruling argued that the SMA should have seized the Caricel equipment at the time it was alleged to have been illegally operating on the spectrum. But I know that the SMA could have provided the signature of the equipment used to support its allegation," added the source.

The contractor general, in his report on the granting of the spectrum licences to Symbiote, also pointed to letters and emails between the SMA and the principals of the company over the alleged illegal use of the spectrum.

"...the team conducted scans on April 18, 2016, between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., at which time activity was detected in the 746-756 MHz frequency range.

" ... the monitoring was repeated on the next day (April 19, 2016), which confirmed that the site located at Sutton Street was powered down. However, activity was detected at another tower ... located in the Mountain View area. Given the signal activity characteristics observed, the Mountain View tower was also attributed to Symbiote," the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) reported that the SMA told Symbiote.

In what the OCG said was an e-mailed response to the SMA, an official of Symbiote reportedly said: "I acknowledge receipt of your letter. We recently installed facilities at the Sutton Street site and have begun testing. We will comply with the SMA's directive, however, we must request your guidance and assistance on how best to test our facilities while we await issuance of the licence."

Against this background, the source said that based on the laws governing the use of the spectrum, there are several questions surrounding the ruling of the DPP.