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PRESS RELEASE – The ECTEL Council of Ministers met in Saint Lucia on Thursday December 4th for a Special meeting to discuss the announcement of the proposed merger between Cable & Wireless Communications Plc. and Columbus Communication Ltd.
In their review of the matter the Ministers noted that since the advent of liberalisation of the telecommunications sector in 2000, there has been a series of mergers and acquisitions involving companies which provide telecommunications services.
It was noted that these mergers were in mobile services, undersea fibre cable and in recent times in the subscriber cable television services.
During the past two years in particular, there has been a high level of mergers and acquisitions involving the major telecommunications providers. This was the case in the entire Caribbean region.
In the review of the proposed merger the ministers noted that potential new scenarios will emerge where monopolies or near monopolies will exist in the provision of fixed network services which will have an impact on both residential and business consumers.
It would also affect the provisions of subscriber cable television. The proposed merger can also determine the regulatory treatment of some retail services.
The Ministers identified the need to ensure –
(i) That in the short to medium term that ECTEL Member States will enjoy new and innovative services in ICT and telecommunications at affordable rates to all consumers;
(ii) The region should benefit from world-class services enjoyed by consumers in other countries regionally and globally.
/In their Closing Statement – Special Meeting of ECTEL Council of Ministers 4th December 2014 In their respective roles as Ministers responsible for telecommunications, they expressed the commitment to continue to pursue the expansion of broadband.
The Council noted that while it has been informed of the proposed merger, no applications have been made in any of the countries where the market will be affected.
These countries are Grenada, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Notwithstanding the markets in Dominica and St. Kitts and Nevis will not be affected, these countries supported the decisions taken by the Council.
The Ministers affirmed that due process must be followed in the treatment of the proposed merger. Consequently, the Council agreed to the following:
ECTEL will –
(a) Suspend the announcement of a new Price Cap Plan until after the completion of the review of the applications by the parties involved, and amend the Price Cap accordingly;
(b) Undertake an analysis on the impact of the proposed merger in conjunction with the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT);
(c) Ensure that the parties adhere to the obligations for regulatory approval related to the change of licence;
(d) Ensure that any new licence granted will provide for fair competition.
The Ministers will invoke the provisions under the legislation to ensure the appropriate regulatory review is undertaken of all applications.
The Ministers Closing Statement – Special Meeting of ECTEL Council of Ministers 4th December 2014 The Ministers committed to working with their respective government agencies to ensure the promulgation of legislation, which would address the current situation and similar proposals in the future.
Additionally, the Ministers agreed to work with the OECS Commission towards the implementation of the OECS Competition Commission.