Digicel Welcomes Intervention by Caribbean Telecommunications Union in proposed Cable and Wireless acquisition of Columbus/FLOW

Digicel welcomes the confirmation by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (‘CTU‘) that it intends to involve itself fully with immediate effect in the proposed acquisition of Columbus International Inc. (‘Columbus‘) by UK-based Cable and Wireless Communications Plc (‘CWC‘).

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The CTU has moved quickly to convene a meeting of its Member States and of the National and Regional Regulatory Authorities to consider the implications of this proposed deal. This meeting will be held in Trinidad during a two day meeting of the CTU on 10th and 11th December.

Digicel is pleased to note that the CTU intends to conduct its important business in an open and transparent manner and that a full opportunity will be provided to all stakeholders (including Digicel) to fully present their views relating to the proposed acquisition. Digicel commends the responsible and efficient manner in which the CTU has approached this challenge. Without question, this proposed acquisition of Columbus by CWC represents the single most important development in the telecommunications section in the Caribbean since liberalisation.

The CTU has noted that the proposed deal “…must be of concern to all regional regulatory authorities and Governments since Flow (Columbus) and LIME (C&W) operate in multiple Caribbean jurisdictions…”. In a special circular issued to Caribbean Governments, the CTU recognises that “…this new development has to be considered in the context of the gains previously achieved in the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector in the Caribbean, particularly as it relates to regional and international connectivity and broadband services…”.

Digicel notes that there has been a concerted effort to confuse the clear issues presented in this deal by misleading references to the highly competitive mobile market. However, it welcomes the fact that the CTU recognises, correctly, that the real concern in this proposed deal is not the mobile market; but rather this blatant attempt to establish virtual monopolies right across the region in the markets for fixed broadband access, fixed line services, international connectivity/submarine fibre access and subscription cable TV services. It is the consolidation of the specific markets in which LIME and FLOW used to compete which is of clear concern to the CTU.

Digicel Group CEO, Colm Delves, states; “We are very pleased that the CTU has taken such a proactive stance in terms of seeking to assess properly the potential impact of this hugely significant deal on the telecommunications industry and wider economy right across the Caribbean region. Whatever may happen, no one can argue against the proposition that the creation of monopolies and the elimination of competition in the markets for fixed broadband access, international connectivity, subscription cable TV and fixed line services would be a massive backwards step for the Caribbean region.”

He continues; “If there are those that believe that this acquisition is a positive thing, then we, at Digicel, would ask why it is that these same parties are so vehemently opposed to proper regulatory analysis being conducted and why they are seeking to impose deadlines on the work that needs to be properly engaged in and carried out in every relevant market. Talking about the mobile market, which remains highly competitive, or seeking to make disparaging remarks about other industry players does not address the fundamental issues presented here. We are very pleased that the CTU recognises this and intends to take a leading role.”

The Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) is an inter-governmental organisation which was established by treaty in 1989 by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ministers responsible for telecommunications. The CTU facilitates multi-stakeholder co-operation in the formulation of policies for the Caribbean information and telecommunications sector and engages in capacity building activities for administrators, regulators and other stakeholders. The CTU has confirmed that it intends to take a lead role in the region in providing advisory services to CARICOM and to the CARICOM Member States relating to the proposed acquisition of Columbus by CWC. Digicel has committed to fully engaging in this process in a responsible and constructive matter.

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