Bemobile breaches its coverage obligations in its Telecommunications Act licence
On 28 February 2011 the TCSI announced that BMobile (Solomon Islands) Limited ('bemobile') is in breach of its Telecommunications Act licence. Specifically, bemobile has failed to satisfy section 10.1(c) of the licence because it is not providing a telecommunications service to 75% of the population by 1 February 2011 and has failed to rectify the situation by 14 February 2011 as required in its licence.
Nicholas Williams, the Telecommunications Commissioner, explained that "bemobile failed to meet its frst coverage obligation to launch services on 18 June 2010. It subsequently launched on 31 August 2010. bemobile then failed to meet its second coverage obligation of 50% on 18 September 2010. After receiving an extension to this second coverage obligation, bemobile was required to provide service to 50% of the population by 30 November 2010. The National Statistics Office (NSO) reviewed bemobile's coverage at that time and concluded that bemobile had reached 48.3%. The TCSI gave bemobile the benefit of the doubt and treated their coverage as compliant.
bemobile has now confirmed to the TCSI and provided data showing that they have built no new sites since 1 December 2010. In view of this, the TCSI has found that bemobile has failed to meet its third coverage threshold of 75% of the population that commenced on 1 February 2011, as well as during the 14 day rectification period that was provided for under the licence.
There has been some confusion in the media about whether bemobile might have reached 64% population coverage. The NSO and the TCSI have both examined the matter and agree that the figure of 64% is erroneous."
In accordance with its bid for the second mobile licence, bemobile submitted a USD 10 million demand guarantee against its satisfaction of four phases of coverage obligations in its licence. Each of the four phases is guaranteed by an amount of USD 2.5 million. The TCSI has decided to exercise USD 1 million in connection with bemobile's failure to meet the third threshold.
The lawfullness of the coverage obligation and exercise of the demand guarantee is being challenged by bemobile before the courts. The TCSI is defending the action.
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