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Houston: BTC Still Preparing For Competition

Although Prime Minister Perry Christie is considering extending The Bahamas Telecommunications Company’s (BTC) mobile monopoly beyond next year, BTC executives are working as if the sector will be liberalised as planned.

The government is trying to fulfil its campaign promise to regain the controlling interest of BTC and Prime Minister Christie said he may use the extension of BTC’s monopoly as a bargaining chip for that to happen.

BTC CEO Geoff Houston said he’s not involved with the negotiations between Cable and Wireless and the government.

“Discussions that are going on in the media are actually a shareholder discussion. That’s between CWC and the Government of The Bahamas. It’s not a discussion I am actually involved in or anyone in BTC is actively involved in and our focus in BTC is really to continue on this journey of competing with the competitors that we have today and continue to get ourselves ready for new competition coming into the market in the form of a new mobile player,” he said during a press conference at BTC’s headquarters.

“My focus is to make sure that my team doesn’t get distracted by the conversation that is going on with the shareholders.”

Mr. Houston said one of things BTC is currently working on is installing a $20 million LTE system to bring the country’s mobile telecommunications up to par with the rest of the world.

“We are still rolling out a new network of franchise stores and we have got many more coming in terms of doing business when and where our customers want us to. We are starting to win back market share in our broadband. We have all the speed you need at a better price and that is resonating a lot with our customers,” he said.

“The monopoly has ended already in certain segments. It ended everywhere apart from mobile so we are sharpening our customer competitive skills by starting to address the competitive issues around our broadband business and mobile business and we are readying ourselves for competition. So nothing really changed at BTC. We still have a lot of work to do but we are fully committed to that journey.”

Mr. Houston also spoke about the criticisms BTC has been getting over the past two years since Cable & Wireless took over at the company’s helm.

He said that Bahamians must understand that when CWC came into the picture it met a telecommunications company that needed upgrades.

But with that came a price.

“We have taken on a business that had significant problems in terms of service and technical capabilities and really we have gone through a journey of trying to change out the old legacy technology and as part of that change came disruptions and the analogy is that if you are building new roads, you can’t build a new road without some level of disruption. But we are absolutely sure that when we get there it is going to be a much better experience,” the BTC CEO said.

Mr. Houston said at the point of privatisation, BTC had 20 per cent dropped calls.

“The average speed that you could have gotten is a tenth of what you can get now,” he said.

The BTC CEO said despite what people may believe, the company is on par with many top telecommunications companies worldwide.

“Bearing in mind that we have two networks – a 2G network and a 4G network – and that 93 per cent of all calls are carried out on the 2G network. That 2G mobile network puts our network as best in its class,” Mr. Houston said.

“Erickson would rank our 2G network in this region as among the top 10 worldwide. We continue to expand. Mobile networks evolve. So customer behaviour changes, demand always changes and we have to keep up with that. So we need to keep updating coverage but as it stands today our 2G network is world class, our 4G network which carries seven per cent of the voice but it is predominately a data network. The dropped calls on the 4G network is slightly higher than the 2G but still would put us in the top 20 worldwide. So while we think there is a slight problem on the 4G we don’t believe there is a significant effort on the 2G and that’s where the majority of the voice comes.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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