|IN BRIEF: Mobile line numbers remain stable in Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s volume of mobile telephone lines remained stable in March, continuing a balanced trend that began in January, according to data published by the country’s telecoms regulator (JRT).
The data shows 3.19mn active mobile lines in March, up slightly from the 3.16mn reported for January and the 3.18mn in February. Of the total mobile lines, 2.24mn were post-paid and 939,844 pre-paid.
The figures equate to a mobile penetration rate of 92.9%.
Fixed telephony lines also increased slightly, reaching 803,781 in March compared to 801,192 in February. The penetration rate for fixed lines was 23.4%.
New player attacking Flow, Digicel in Jamaica – Jamaica
Jamaica’s telecom industry is on the verge of a mobile war with the introduction of Symbiote Investments Limited, the newest rival to established operators Flow and Digicel.
Operating under the brand Caricel, the company says it will focus on data as a means of enticing dissatisfied Flow and Digicel customers to acquire its services, according to local daily The Jamaica Gleaner.
Caricel should hit the market in a matter of weeks, and will initially offer its service in the Corporate Area and Portmore, an unnamed spokesman from the firm told the paper.
Symbiote is the first fully Jamaican-owned telecom company to be granted a local mobile spectrum license. Approval was granted by the cabinet last week and the price of US$20.8mn will be paid by the company within a month.
“It is a win-win for the customer. We are proud to welcome a wholly-owned Jamaican company, powered by Jamaicans, to the telecommunications industry,” said Andrew Wheatley, minister of science, energy and technology, according to a report by the Jamaica Observer.
In February, former minister Phillip Paulwell announced that the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) and the Spectrum Management Authority (SMA) had approved the issue of a license and had approached the cabinet for approval, but did not reveal the name of the operator.
Jamaica previously had three operators, but América Móvil‘s Claro unit was acquired by Digicel in 2011, leaving only Digicel and Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC).
Last year, Julian Wilkins, head of regulation at Digicel and chairman of Caribbean telecoms association Canto told BNamericas that auctioning the 700MHz is desperately needed to boost 4G coverage in the Caribbean region.
Roundup: SCT & Mexsat, Conatel Honduras, Etecsa Cuba – Regional
The Mexican transport and communications ministry (SCT) is studying the possibility of constructing a new satellite as part of the Mexsat satellite communications system.
The new satellite would replace Centenario, which was destroyed last year during launch, according to a report from local daily Excelsior, citing the country’s head of communications at the SCT, Mónica Aspe Bernal.
According to Aspe, the government has designed a long-term policy in which the construction of the satellite will be considered if it can be funded through financial schemes.
Honduran telecoms regulator Conatel is removing 21 television channels from the airwaves, according to a press release from the agency.
The watchdog explained that the operators of said channels had allegedly not renewed their permits in order to continue broadcasting legally.
The decision was condemned by opposition channel Globo TV, which called it a violation of freedom of expression and said it was a reprise for constantly criticizing the government in its TV shows, according to a report by news outlet Telesur.
Cuba’s state-owned telco Etecsa is launching four new public Wi-fi hotspots in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.
The hotspots will position the city as the country’s second most connected territory in terms of Wi-Fi zone penetration, according to local news agency ACN.
Cuba continues to make strides towards a connected age. Of the total 7.2mn internet accounts that have existed in the country since 2013, around 71% were opened in 2015.
Canto appoints new Secretary General – Caribbean
Caribbean telecoms companies association Canto has appointed Teresa Wankin as its new secretary general.
Wankin replaces Regenie Fräser, who announced during Canto’s annual trade conference in Miami last August that she was stepping down after 11 years at the helm. Wankin’s appointment is effective from April 1, 2016.
Wankin joined Canto in 2001 as a research officer and has held different roles within the organization, including leading the sales, publications, technical and member services departments, and more recently organizing Canto events.
The new secretary general will be tasked with continuing to develop many of the projects laid in place by her predecessor.
These include the Broadband Infrastructure Inventory and Public Awareness in the Caribbean (BIIPAC) project. The four components of BIIPAC are now in place: a diagnosis and map of broadband needs in the Caribbean; review of the legal and regulatory frameworks and sector trends; an ICT awareness and capacity building component; and recommendations for the design of national broadband strategies.
The plan is due to be presented to the heads of government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) for them to study and act upon.
Under her 11-year tenure, Fräser strengthened Canto membership by 400% and increased collaboration between ICT members and other Caribbean regional organizations, including the Caribbean Telecommunication Union (CTU), the eastern Caribbean regulators organization (Ectel) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Fräser also co-created the Caribbean Women in ICT program and the i-Create Hackathon.
LatAm countries clamping down on stolen phones – Regional
Latin American countries have been stepping up measures to clamp down on stolen mobile phones.
In Peru, telecoms regulator Osiptel reported more than 500,000 stolen phones in the first quarter of this year.
According to the watchdog, 76% of those that suffered the theft of a cell phone in 2015 reported it to their operator. Some 24% of those surveyed that said they did not block their phones as they expected them to be unlocked on the informal market.
The authorities made an appeal to users to back up their files in the cloud or have a backup copy on a hard drive, as well as to avoid storing sensitive personal information such as bank passwords.
Some 2.8mn mobile phones were blocked in Colombia between August, 2015 and April 2016 due to their not being registered with the authorities and presumably being stolen, ICT ministry Mintic said.
Colombia’s government has pushed an initiative through Mintic, telecoms regulator CRC and the federal police force whereby users register the IMEI nuber to avoid it being duplicated or altered and used by criminals.
The number of phone IMEIs registered rose from 78mn to 101mn at the end of April. Phones are typically blocked when reported stolen or when a request for the IMEI to be registered is ignored.
Criminals have responded to the measures by using technologies that can change the IMEI of stolen phones, thus allowing them to continue using the phone.
In April, authorities identified some 62,000 phones whose IMEI had been altered.
Cuba’s telecoms ministry has introduced new legislation that will block all mobile phones on a black list of stolen devices, reported state telecoms operator Etecsa.
Anyone inserting a SIM card into a phone that appears on the blacklist of invalid IMEI codes will have their line blocked, Etecsa said. Resolution 12 came into effect on May 18.
If this happens, the owner of the line will have five days to clarify the reasons for the IMEI being on the blacklist in order to have their line restored.
The GSMA mobile operators association runs the “We Care” campaign, which is designed to combat handset theft. In February, Honduras and Costa Rica joined, whereby operators and regulators agreed to implement the GSMA’s device checking system, which enables users to check on the watchdog’s website whether a device has been stolen by entering the device’s IMEI code.