Digicel accuses gov’t of ‘muddying the waters’ in 850 MHz spectrum row

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Local public utilities authorities are being accused of making “grossly distorted assertions” regarding the 850-megahertz spectrum which Digicel uses to deliver services to its customers in Antigua and Barbuda.

Digicel, in a release issued late Friday, also dismisses as false, a claim that the allocation of the spectrum is linked to its involvement in the award-winning GATE project. The company’s statement came a day after those and other allegations were made by the Public Utilities Minister, Sir Robin Yearwood, and the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA).

According to Digicel, it has had that spectrum since 2006 when it began operating in Antigua and Barbuda, under a licence which was originally signed by Sir Robin.

As the company accused the government of attempting to “unfairly confiscate its legally allocated 850 MHz spectrum – damaging service to thousands of customers in the process”, it explained, that the mobile licences under which it is operating, was initially issued to another company in 1989 and 1998 and signed by Sir Robin who was also then the minister responsible for APUA.

Chronicling the process, Digicel wrote, “When the mobile licence was issued by Sir Robin to Observer Publications in 1998, it was in the full recognition that the 850 MHz band would be used. This same licence was transferred to Cingular and was subsequently transferred to Digicel in 2006. The 850 MHz spectrum provided for in that licence was legally allocated by the Government to Digicel and is being fully utilised by Digicel.”

Digicel said it is the same spectrum which the government is “confiscating for the sole benefit of APUA.”

It should be noted that APUA’s recent press statement on this same matter, indicates that it is only seeking “a portion of this premium spectrum” which APUA also contends has remained “solely” in the hands of international providers.

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