Business

Consumer group to poll public on CBL rate hike request

February 22, 2015

Consumer Voices Bahamas (CVB) has announced that it will conduct a public poll on the proposed rate increase for Cable Bahamas.
CVB is an advocacy group that first came to public attention in the aftermath of the acquisition of the majority interest in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) by Cable and Wireless Corporation (CWC) in 2010.
Chairperson Marlene Minus released a statement yesterday stating, "We encourage all members of the public to participate in our public polls throughout New Providence, Grand Bahama and Abaco," Minus said. "Our primary objective is to get the consumer's views about Cable Bahamas' application to URCA for a rate increase."
Last month URCA (the Utilities Regulatory and Competition Authority) held a town hall meeting on Cable Bahamas' most recent application, submitted on October 7, 2014.

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Regional Problems Understood but Action Needed-PM Opens IDB Caribbean Governors Regional Meeting

February 20, 2015

Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, officially opened the 4th IDB Caribbean Governors Regional Meeting at Grand Lucayan on Thursday...

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Minister Darville Welcomes IDB Delegates to Grand Bahama

February 20, 2015

The Hon. Dr. Michael Darville, Minister for Grand Bahama, officially welcomed delegates attending the 4th Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Caribbean Governors Regional Meeting on Thursday...

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The opening of the IDB Caribbean Governors Meeting
The opening of the IDB Caribbean Governors Meeting

February 20, 2015

President Luis Alberto Moreno, Honourable Ministers, IDB Governors from The Bahamas, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Jamaica, Guyana, Mr. Warren Smith, the President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), senior IDB staff, public officers, members from the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, Ladies and Gentlemen: Good morning!...

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Leveraging the Strategic Advantages of Captives to Address Today's Top Business Issues
Leveraging the Strategic Advantages of Captives to Address Today's Top Business Issues

February 20, 2015

The 2015 Captive Insurance Companies Association (CICA) International Conference is being hosted under the theme “Captives: The Strategic Advantage”. The annual event, scheduled for March 8-10 at the Loews Royal Pacific in Orlando, Florida, boasts an agenda packed with educational sessions tailored to help businesses leverage the strategic advantages of captives to address key business trends...

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ScotiaBank Rides for Hope
ScotiaBank Rides for Hope

February 20, 2015

For the fifth consecutive time, Scotiabank (Bahamas) Ltd. was a yellow jersey sponsor of Ride for Hope. The charity bike-a-thon attracted hundreds of cyclists and has raised over $2.3 million for cancer care, research and treatment since its inception in 2006, not including this year’s sum...

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Response from Government of The Bahamas on OAS Detention Centre Report
Response from Government of The Bahamas on OAS Detention Centre Report

February 20, 2015

The public is advised that the government of The Bahamas is in receipt of a report from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States regarding an assessment of the conditions at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre and issuing precautionary measures...

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Minnis appears to back Cable Bahamas bid for license

February 19, 2015

During his contribution to debate on the mid-year budget communication in the House of Assembly yesterday -- and based on the fact that it is 100 percent Bahamian-owned -- Free National Movement Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis seemed to endorse the bid of Cable Bahamas Ltd. (CBL) for the second mobile license, due to be awarded before summer 2015.
Minnis also questioned the identities of the partners behind the Virgin Mobile bid. It has been asserted that Junkanoo Mobile -- a Bahamian mobile startup which had announced an intention to bid for the license -- has partnered with Virgin, but Junkanoo principal Franklyn Winder has not commented in the public arena.
Pressed by Guardian Business after his contribution to say whether he is indeed endorsing Cable Bahamas' bid, Minnis said, "I am pro-Bahamian. I believe in Bahamians and Bahamian ownership."
Speaking to the cellular liberalization process, Minnis noted that the Christie administration was touting its intention to see that there is broad ownership by Bahamians of 51 percent of the company granted the license.
There are three companies vying for the license. Cable Bahamas, which Minnis stressed is 100 percent Bahamian-owned, Digicel -- a foreign company -- and Virgin Mobile, whose bid is being put forward by a consortium including Virgin and a holding group.
"Who is this holding group? People want to know," Minnis charged. "No hiding behind companies."
He tossed off a list of company names -- including Boy George investment, My Dog Ruth investment, or Snake investment -- and queried whether they were part of the consortium. By contrast, Minnis noted Cable Bahamas' 100 percent Bahamian ownership and more than 2,400 share holders. Minnis pointed out that CBL shares are now $14.25 each, which he said represented a 1,425 percent capital gain from $1.00 investment.
BEC sold one million shares in 2007 and made 800 percent profit, that is $8 Million dollars, he said.
Minnis pointed out that -- if it is a question of Bahamian ownership -- NIB has 22 percent investment in Cable Bahamas and the Public Treasury has 7 percent investment. He added that Cable employs 470 Bahamians directly and up to 600 indirectly.

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First 'green' housing development on the horizon

February 19, 2015

The government hopes to launch The Bahamas' first
"green" housing development via a series of over 300 homes in Carmichael Village - complete with individual photovoltaic power generating systems - in the near future.
Speaking in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, Minister of the Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett said the development is among the first planned initiatives where the government is involved in a public-private partnership. However, Dorsett did not provide a concrete timeframe for the completion of the project.
"We are also in the process of finalizing plans for the construction of 303 homes in Carmichael Village and 60 in Ardastra. Carmichael Village is planned to be the nation's first green housing development. Each home will include a PV (photovoltaic) solar grid tie connected energy generating system. These housing projects are some of the public-private partnerships which I forecasted in my budget communication this past June. At present there are new models being considered along with new construction methods that are in line with the environmentally friendly theme," he said.
The government is currently in the planning phases with the Carbon War Room (CWR) for a number of environmental development initiatives, including renewable energy installations at the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) and various family island pilot projects utilizing solar and wind power generation systems. The government is expected to meet with CWR representatives later this month to discuss the initiatives.
The news follows the Electricity (Amendment) Act, debated in the Senate earlier this week, which will allow for a residential energy self-generation (RESG) grid-tie framework for local residences and select commercial clients in the hopes of making renewables more accessible for Bahamians and ease the burden on the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC).
Dorsett also touched on the general state of the government's housing program, stating that it had seen "challenges in the past months" involving mortgage financing due to faulty loan application information.
"It was initially planned that all homes would be fully occupied by December of last year. However, we are working as we speak to correct these issues and to ensure that existing homes and those recently constructed are occupied by Bahamian families with their mortgages.
"I would also like to urge Bahamians to be truthful when they complete their loan applications. Far too often, applicants are not revealing all of their commercial loan obligations and judgments against them. This causes a lot of delays in the loan approval process and warrants re-assignment. Approximately 12 of the homes assigned in Strachan's have had to be re-assigned for similar reasons, which delays the ability to get completed homes occupied quickly," said Dorsett.
He added that the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMC) had placed 161 government-initiated mortgages valued at $15,613,707 and 176 private initiated mortgages valued at $21,934,251, for a total of $37,547,958 in loans since the current administration came to power in 2012.
"A key component in this regard has been the drive to partner with private home developers to meet the country's demanding housing needs, as per my direction," said Dorsett.
"No new BMC bonds were issued to facilitate these new mortgages, as improving the current status of the fund for future maturities is of utmost importance to BMC, thus the desire not to worsen the position of the BMC Bond Sinking Fund," he added.

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Wilson wants assurances that govt supports discussions

February 19, 2015

Arawak Homes Chairman Franklyn Wilson wants assurances from the Christie administration that the government supports ongoing discussions between the housing developer and three members of Parliament around land the government attained through compulsory acquisition in 1995 and 1999, and that those discussions are not just a waste of time.
In 1995, the government acquired land in Pinewood Gardens from Arawak Homes to build the Cleveland Eneas Primary School. Then in 1999, the government acquired yet more land in Pinewood Gardens for the Sadie Curtis Primary School and the C.W. Saunders Highway.
Arawak Homes, having defeated competing claims to have title to the land in question, had said it intends to launch legal moves to take possession of all properties on its land that were not acquired from it. The move could have affected as many as 300-400 homeowners in Pinewood Gardens and Sir Lynden Pindling Estates who purchased their properties from vendors who allegedly did not have good title to the land they were selling.
Wilson told Guardian Business that Arawak Homes' management has also met with Minister of State for Investments and Pinewood MP Khaalis Rolle, Seabreeze MP and Minister of Financial Services Hope Strachan and Nassau Village MP Dion Smith, newly appointed chairman of the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation.
"They have all together or separately had meetings with senior management of Arawak Homes. They have expressed an interest in seeing to what extent they can arrive at some understanding with the company such that a number of issues that now impact a lot of residents in their areas might be settled," Wilson reported.
He said the MPs had cited the resolution of a land dispute in Bozine Town as precedent for what they would like to see done.
"We have indicated to them that the company is prepared to cooperate with the government in this initiative," Wilson said.
"Right now, we are dealing -- as far as we know -- with members of Parliament. We do not yet have something to say that the government of The Bahamas itself is committed to this process. So we've asked them to get us something by which we could know that the government of The Bahamas says that we're not wasting time," he said.
"All they can do as MPs is to try and advance something which they encourage the government to support. What we now seek as a company is some confirmation from the government saying that they support the initiative," Wilson explained.
He said that given the complexity and time-consuming nature of the matter, the company merely wants an assurance that it is not wasting time. Wilson was quick to add that he trusted the MPs were working in good faith.
"We do not doubt the interest, or the desire for this group to move forward," he said.
Rolle told Guardian Business he is hopeful that a positive resolution can be reached.
"We are meeting fairly regularly, with a view of being able to put on one page all of the inventory that is affected and being able to get a clear picture of the situation," he said. "What's taking place now is their surveyors and our people are cross-referencing, because we need to have a detailed and accurate account of the inventory that is affected."
Rolle said the aim is to try and keep people in their homes.
"That's the goal, whatever formula we come up with at the end of the day. We need to know exactly what inventory we're dealing with, and then the government will sit down and make a determination as to how we attempt to resolve it with Arawak Homes and the homeowners," he said.

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Arawak Homes seeks Privy Council hearing

February 19, 2015

Arawak Homes has sought leave to go to the Privy Council to challenge the ruling of the Court of Appeal in the matter of the compulsory acquisition of land from Arawak Homes which was used for the Cleveland Eneas and Sadie Curtis Primary Schools, and the C.W. Saunders Highway.
Chairman Franklyn Wilson told Guardian Business that the company had decided to appeal to the highest court in the Bahamas judicial architecture for two reasons.
"We have already applied to the court for leave to go to the Privy Council to appeal the judgment of the Court of Appeal, because we do not believe that the Court of Appeal's judgment renders adequate compensation. We think that the obligation of the government to the company is far, far greater than what the Court of Appeal said," he said.
The Court of Appeal increased the amount of money awarded to Arawak Homes in connection to the 1995 acquisition.
"First, its nowhere near enough," Wilson said.
The other part of the Court of Appeal's judgment which Wilson said "disturbed" Arawak Homes revolved around the manner in which the acquisition of the land had been treated in the judgment. The government compulsorily acquired land from Arawak Homes in 1995 for the Cleveland Eneas Primary School, and again in 1999 for the Sadie Curtis Primary School and portions of the C.W Saunders Highway.
In 2001, the government amended the notices of acquisition following a dispute over the purpose of the acquisition of the original acreage.
The Court of Appeal's ruling questions the propriety of that action, but rather than rule that the government had acted improperly, the high court sent the matter back to the Supreme Court for rehearing.
"So if we have to go back to the Supreme Court, and spend more time, we might as well go to the Privy Council and get a definitive position," Wilson said. "We are going to the Privy Council not just because we believe that the quantum for the 1995 acquisition is too low; we are also going hoping to save time and money to get the 1999 matter settled."
Wilson did not wish to name a figure when pressed by Guardian Business for his ideal outcome.
"Whatever the court says, we will accept the process," he said. "My point is that the Constitution of the country promises guarantees people that when the government acquires your land, you will get prompt and adequate compensation. That is the exact words used in the Constitution."
"Well we're already into the 20th year, and if we have to go back to the Supreme Court, at the rate we went coming up, that may be multiple more years, so that is certainly not prompt," he noted.
"We are also going to the Privy Council because we believe in the fulness of time -- and it is our prayer -- that the public will get a sense of the degree of wrong which was inflicted on this company through government conduct," he said.
"Some things here which never should have happened."

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Wells: Govt must make LNG switch now

February 19, 2015

Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells yesterday criticized the government's inaction over the managerial reform of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), stating that the country needs to make the switch to liquefied natural gas (LNG) immediately.
Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday, Wells stated that the government's indecision is not in the best interests of the Bahamian economy and The Bahamas is "right back" in the same place it was prior to the 2008 Financial Crisis regarding its energy sector.
"Our lack of decision to decide on a strategic partner for BEC is not in our current best economic interests. I believe that we ought to make that decision and make it quickly.
"If we make the decision to move in the direction of LNG, to move in the direction of installing aero-derivative engines, then we could dramatically reduce the cost of electricity for the Bahamian people," Wells said, stressing the additional burden placed on Bahamians due to value-added tax (VAT).
While Wells acknowledged that he voted for VAT, he said that he did so with the caveat that the government would reduce the cost of electricity to increase the disposable income of Bahamian households.
"We ought to move in that direction sooner rather than later. We ought to give that kind of economic relief to the Bahamian people," he said.
Regarding the fuel sources currently used by BEC, Wells said that while Bunker C diesel is competitive with LNG it costs BEC a great deal due to "massive" maintenance fees for its slow-speed diesel engines.
"Bunker C is competitive with LNG. The problem with Bunker C is the heat rate. Whereas you can use a miniscule amount of LNG to get an engine going, the amount of Bunker C that you need to get the same heat rate is massive. Bunker C works in slow-speed diesel engines and the amount of maintenance for these slow-speed diesel engines is massive," he said.
BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller, one of the first proponents of LNG use in the country, told Guardian Business that the Bahamian people continue to "suffer tremendously" from high electricity costs as a result of not making the switch to LNG power sooner. In the company's current state, Miller believes that BEC will not see a meaningful shift to LNG for another five to seven years.
Prime Minister Perry Christie last month said that LNG will become a "hot topic" in The Bahamas in 2015, after he revealed that the government is in talks with "major players" in natural gas launching projects in Jamaica and Florida. The renewed interested in the fuel largely stems from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's pledge at last month's Caribbean Energy Security Summit (CESS) to explore exporting LNG throughout the Caribbean.

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PM to speak on GB agenda at Business Outlook conference

February 19, 2015

With "Securing Grand Bahama Through Planning, Partnership & Productivity" as its theme, the 17th Annual Grand Bahama Business Outlook (GBBO) is on target for Thursday, March 5, 2015 at Grand Lucayan Bahamas resort in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has agreed to present the keynote address of an agenda that is likely to attract many residents and others who are deeply concerned about the island's future.
Minister for Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville is expected to deliver the welcome and the national anthem and opening prayer will be performed by the Grand Bahama Youth Choir.
In announcing the forum, Joan Albury, president of TCL Group, founder and chief organizer of TCL's seven-island Business Outlook series, said that it was taking place at a particularly critical moment in the history of Grand Bahama. She also said that it has been challenging to secure funding to mount GBBO, so TCL is particularly grateful for those sponsors who have come on board.
"Our sponsors this year are to be lauded for their support in these challenging times. We are particularly grateful for this necessary assistance as there are critical issues facing Grand Bahama in this year that must be aired in an expert and fair forum.
"At the top of the list is the possibility of a game-changing revision of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA). Given our long and mutually beneficial relationship with the island, we thought it a duty to set a fearless agenda reflecting HCA, investment and business development in Grand Bahama and the proposed National Development Plan as highlights. Forum attendees may be assured that we have invited presenters who can speak with authority on such matters.
"In this regard, we are most grateful to have secured the participation of Prime Minister Perry Christie as keynoter to reveal government's perspective on overall economic development. Who better to do so than the government leader?
"It is essential also to have the tourism perspective and the all-round view that the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce can supply, so we're glad to have on the GBBO program David. L. Johnson, CEO of Bahamas Tourism Development Corporation, who will speak to a wide scope of issues under the topic 'Tourism development post-U.S.Cuban embargo, new investment and Employment'. We look forward also to the contribution from the President of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce Kevin Seymour."
Noting that the fate of HCA is perhaps the biggest issue confronting Grand Bahamian business currently, Mrs. Albury revealed that attorney at law Carey Leonard of Callenders & Co. will present "Hawksbill Agreement 2015: Where do we go?"outlining the fundamentals of the situation and exploring options and potential outcomes.
Mrs. Albury commented:
"The 2015 GBB0 is coming at a time when many Grand Bahamians and thoughtful Bahamians generally are deeply concerned about the fate of the 99-year Hawksbill Creek Agreement between the government and the Grand Bahama Port Authority. The establishment of HCA in 1955 and the generous tax concessions it incorporated brought mega investment to Grand Bahama. HCA propelled the development of Freeport, which became the nation's second city by reason of its phenomenal growth in the 1960s and early 1970s. Some of the most advantageous benefits of HCA expired in 1990, but the government gave an extension to 2015 of freedom from a number of government levies, including real property tax, personal property tax, capital gains taxes, taxes on shares and earnings. Many fear that a negative change in the status of such exemptions will deal a death blow to quality of the economy and life on our northernmost island. These are not unreasonable concerns in light of the fact that the Grand Bahama economy has been lagging for several years. With the lingering impact of the global recession, unemployment has grown unacceptably high."
TCL's president expressed pleasure that Matthew Fesbach, CEO, Okyanos will be among the presenters on March 5. "With an investment of $10 million, the Okyanos Institute for stem cell treatment of chronic diseases, particularly heart problems, represents one of the largest investments in Grand Bahama of late. Given the fact that its patients are coming from countries across the globe, Okyanos may be indicating that medical tourism is in the cards for any sustainable economic development in that island. So, we are looking forward to hearing from Mr. Feshbach, who has also consented to appear on Bahamas at Sunrise, our morning television show," Mrs. Albury said.
Dr. Rodney Smith, president of The College of The Bahamas, is also slated to present. Mrs. Albury opined that the northern campus of the national tertiary institution can play a vital role in improving the economic climate of Grand Bahama, so it is important to know what plans college leadership has for its further development and community contribution.
"At present, nothing that we can discuss could possibly be more important to Grand Bahama and the entire Bahamas than improvements in education and the success of the proposed national development plan (NDP) that is now under construction. I'm pleased to say that we have secured the participation of the project leaders and planning experts. We are expecting them to share with us how far they have progressed and what particular attention is being paid to Grand Bahama and the rest of the archipelago, especially those islands that have generally received less of the limelight. Slated to present are Felix Stubbs, chair of the Steering Committee; Nicola Virgill-Rolle, Ph.D., director of Financial Services for Ministry of Financial Services and Samantha L Rolle, project officer for the Government of The Bahamas, Office of the Prime Minister. They will be preceded by Paul Major, president, Brickell Management Group Ltd and chairman of the National Festival Commission, who will speak to 'The Economic Benefits of Carnival'. Most will agree that this has been a hot-button topic in the media of late," Mrs. Albury said.
Closing out the 17th Annual Grand Bahama Business Outlook will be a panel discussion entitled 'National Development Plan'. For further information/registration, interested persons may contact Margaret Albury at (242) 322-1000 or malbury@tclbahamas.com, Mercynth Ferguson at the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce at (242) 352-8329 or mferguson-gbcc@live.com and/or Hazel McKinney at Deloitte at (242) 350-6100 or hmckinney@deloitte.com. Registration may also be made online at: www.tclevents.com.

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Bahamas Gets $600,000 IDB Technical Cooperation Grant

February 19, 2015

The Government of The Bahamas and the Inter-American Development Bank on Thursday morning signed a $600,000 pact that will focus primarily on the ecosystem of the Island of Andros...

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BORCO meets with Contractors to improve 2015 Business
BORCO meets with Contractors to improve 2015 Business

February 19, 2015

Buckeye Bahamas (BORCO) met with over 100 of their local and international contractors recently to review their successes and improvements from 2014 and set the goals for the new year...

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Global Business Opportunity-International Company Launching in The BAHAMAS!

February 19, 2015

Global Business Opportunity-International Company Launching in The BAHAMAS!

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A Connected Bahamas
A Connected Bahamas

February 19, 2015

The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) has been further developing, improving and expanding the BTC network to transform the entire country into a connected Bahamas...

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Propane Generators-A Great Alternative to Diesel

February 19, 2015

When it comes to finding the best solution to providing backup power to your house in case of an emergency or power outage, you will find that propane generators fits the bill...

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BTC: No comment on cell tower design accusation

February 18, 2015

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has issued proposed regulations that would require operators of mobile networks, where possible, to share facilities and the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) - in the midst of a $65 million upgrade in order to prepare for competition - has refused to comment on an accusation by one of the three companies vying for the second mobile license that BTC is making the entry of a competitor more financially challenging by building new cell towers that are only designed for one tenant.
That accusation was lobbed by Digicel Bahamas, which is "absolutely" in favor of "colocation", or what URCA terms "infrastructure sharing". Digicel, Virgin Mobile Bahamas and Cable Bahamas are all in the race for the next mobile license, which is expected to be granted by summer. In the meanwhile, BTC continues to operate in anticipation of a competitor.
Digicel Vice President of Business Development Frank O'Carroll told Guardian Business that Digicel's research team has observed - and here he stressed that no one from Digicel touched a tower belonging to BTC - that BTC's new towers are designed for one tenant.
"That's deliberate," he said.
He noted the towers can be rehabilitated to allow a second tenant, but that would cost $20,000 or so to upgrade each tower.
BTC Chief Executive Officer Leon Williams said he had no comment in respect of Digicel's accusation.

A history of sharing
O'Carroll asserted that Digicel has vast experience working in island nations with small populations scattered in small communities that are difficult to access. Cell towers in these communities must be secured, refueled and maintained.
"We share infrastructure with our competitors in those places," he said. "It is very successful.
Tower construction in urban areas costs about $90,000, O'Carroll said. In rural areas, that cost can run upwards of $300,000 - an exorbitant cost for a small population.
"The maths make sense when you share that facility with someone else," he said.

URCA regulations
In December 2014, URCA issued proposed regulations requiring operators, where possible, to share their facilities.
"URCA believes that infrastructure sharing will serve as a catalyst for faster roll-out of new and innovative services by all operators in an effort to differentiate product offerings to consumers," the regulator said. "In a newly liberalized cellular mobile market, it is imperative that the introduction of new entrants is encouraged in order to promote competition. Facilities sharing increases the attractiveness of the market to new players since barriers to market entry are lower."
BTC has been building cell towers since entering the mobile market in 1988.

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