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2006-07-07 07:16:12

Bahamas Not Wired For Success

The Bahamas is in danger of losing more ground in the high-tech arena if the government fails to open up the telecom sector to new competition.

European Telecommunica-tion consultants Systec outlined in a report that The Bahamas has embraced the tech revolution but needs to go even further to retain its leadership in the region.

According to Mr Reid, principal consultant at Systec, a number of The Bahamas Tel-ecommunications Company's (BTC) liberalization policies stifle competition.

"There will be a period where BTC is protected," he said. "What they [the government] have decided is that once a strategic investor has bought BTC, then competition would not be allowed for a period of 24 months after the date of the sale."

In this scenario, Mr Reid feels there would be no competitive pressure on BTC to improve services, including competitive rates.

"There's really no reason why [BTC] should defer in the fixed voice market until 24 months after the sale," he added.

Mr Reid suggests BTC is keen to retain the 24-month gap to ensure a good share price. This, he said, would protect investors' interests in the short term. By keeping competition out of the market, consumers would not have the option of number portability services, a convenient tool according to Mr Reid.

Number portability allows consumers to change service providers without having to undergo the expensive pro-cess of obtaining a new telephone number.

Mr Reid pointed out that telecom legislation in The Bahamas lacks normal competitive safeguards, which he feels need to be drawn up.

Systec's report, produced after a 12-month study, found that "although liberalisation is progressing, many aspects still need to be addressed before the telecommunications markets are operating in an open, transparent and competitive manner."

Although there needs to be work on this front in The Bahamas, Mr Reid said the rest of the Caribbean region also has similar problems.

"None of the countries covered by the report have done anything about this, and that is why it is important that the government realises [this] if they really want to be serious about liberalisation of com-petition."

By: BARRY WILLIAMS, The Nassau Guardian

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