Digicel denied access to LIME network

Telecom regulators have rejected Digicel’s bid to access LIME’s copper and fiber networks so that the mobile phone company could offer home Internet service.

Digicel complained to the Information and Communications Technology Authority in 2012, asking the authority to force LIME to give Digicel access to the wired network so that the company can offer a competing service without the cost of rolling out its own infrastructure around Cayman.

LIME Cayman Islands CEO Bill McCabe, responding to the decision, said, “If LIME had been forced to provide competitors with access to the networks we have invested so heavily in, it would have stifled future incentives for both infrastructure-based competition and technical innovation.”

LIME has almost completed a project to roll out a fiber network across the Cayman Islands, giving significantly faster consumer broadband access to the Internet and digital television. Two other companies, Infinity Broadband, trading as C3, and Logic, are building similar networks to compete for Internet and TV customers. All three companies have signed agreements with ICTA to make the networks available countrywide in coming years.

Amid the stiff competition for fast broadband connections, companies imported more than $20 million of telecom and recording equipment last year, according to the Economics and Statistics Office annual trade report. The total set a new record for the value of telecom and recording equipment – considered one category for government records – brought into the country last year.

ICTA sided with LIME in the ruling released last week, saying that LIME made significant investments to install the network, and that allowing a competitor to have access, known as “unbundling,” would make it less likely for companies to do these types of expensive infrastructure projects.

In written arguments to ICTA, Digicel argued that unbundling LIME’s network would increase broadband access for consumers. But, in its decision the authority notes, “Broadband penetration in the Cayman Islands is already at a high level compared to many other countries.” ICTA data shows there are 41 broadband Internet connections per 100 people in the country. The United States, for example, had fewer than 32 connections per 100 residents at the end of last year, according to U.S. government figures.

Digicel, in a 2013 submission to the authority, said its Internet service in Bermuda is on average a quarter of the cost of LIME’s Internet service here. The company writes there is “significant room for immediate improvement in terms of the prices for consumers in the Cayman Islands if a fit for purpose fixed access product is provided.”

The authority disagreed with Digicel’s arguments, deciding that it would not be in the public interest to force LIME to share its network.

Digicel declined to comment on the ruling.