Symbiote/Caricel on track for third spectrum licence

JAMACA has moved closer to resolving the issue of its third spectrum licensee, with the Government’s decision to accept a conditional approval given by the previous Administration in February and issue the licence.

Symbiote, touted since early 2016 as the first fully Jamaican-owned telecoms company to be granted a local mobile spectrum licence, will trade as Caricel.

Spokesmen for the company said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer in May that they intend to bring “cutting-edge technology, lightning fast broadband speeds, and serious innovation” to the industry, allowing Jamaican consumers access to First World telecommunications products and services.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness informed the House of Representatives yesterday that, based on “very careful consideration and advice”, his Cabinet has decided to proceed with issuance of the domestic mobile spectrum licence, which had been approved by the previous Government on February 15, 2016, days before this year’s general election.

Holness also stated that the Government would not revoke the current carrier and service provider licence which had been issued by the previous Government to Symbiote.

The decision is a huge rebuff of the Office of the Contractor General’s (OCG) recommendations that the Government revoke the conditional approval given in February, as well as the carrier and service provider licences which were granted previously.

Holness said that the Spectrum Management Authority (SMA), which issues spectrum licences, will continue to pursue the issue of alleged unauthorised use of the spectrum by Symbiote.

“Let me make it clear that the matter of the unlawful use of the spectrum by Symbiote is to be dealt with by the Spectrum Management Authority, in its regulatory capacity, in accordance with the law,” Holness told the House.

He also stated that the OCG raised some issues about conflict of interest at the SMA.

“Cabinet takes seriously any perceived or real conflict of interest in any public servant and gives the assurance that appropriate action will be taken to address the concerns in this regard,” he added.

Holness also informed his colleagues in the House that, in the course of considering the matter, Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte has recommended a number of areas for legislative and other actions. These include:

• Placing a duty on non-natural persons who are applying for telecommunications licences to provide all required and relevant information about their shareholders, directors and other officers; and

• Setting clear standards to determine whether an applicant for a telecommunications licence is fit and proper, and placing an ongoing duty on the regulatory authorities to remain satisfied that a telecommunications licensee is fit and proper.

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