Jamaican government eyes regulating, taxing VoIP OTT providers – Jamaica
CTU to review CWC’s acquisition of Columbus – Caribbean
Oi picks Altice for Portugal Telecom sale – Brazil, Dominican R.
Roundup: Motorola Chile, ICE, Tigo Paraguay – Regional
Hondutel posts smaller loss – Honduras

Jamaican government eyes regulating, taxing VoIP OTT providers – Jamaica

Jamaica’s government has said it plans to regulate and also collect tax from voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) telephony providers, local newspaper The Gleaner reported.
Minister of science, technology, energy and mining Phillip Paulwell said that VoIP regulations were currently being drafted.
“The ministry for finance and planning needs to collect revenue,” Paulwell said.
The news comes as part of a probe carried out by utilities regulator OUR in recent months after Caribbean operators Digicel and LIME attempted to block from their networks the use of unlicensed VoIP service providers like Viber and Nimbuzz, which allow free calls worldwide using smartphones.
Paulwell said that no particular VoIP over-the-top (OTT) provider would be singled out.
“We are hoping to encourage Jamaican programmers,” he said, while noting that a “distinction” will be made regarding “pure voice” services.
Digicel’s director of international business Conor Clarke told BNamericas in August the company had been trying to force services like Viber into contractual arrangements, accusing these providers of illegal bypassing by terminating traffic on their networks without paying fees and also of adding pressure to their broadband networks.
However, attempts to block the unlicensed VoIP operators have met with a customer backlash against the operators, The Gleaner reported.
Digicel and LIME’s UK-based parent company Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) were both quoted by the paper as welcoming the move.
“While we were not aware of the regulations mentioned by the minister, we do welcome the proactive response to the issues related to VoIP calls,” Digicel reportedly said in an emailed statement.
CWC commented: “We have long maintained that VoIP operators have been utilizing the network of telecoms providers without any commensurate compensation for this service. In doing so, they are also depriving the government of tax revenue.”
The newspaper reported that Jamaican programmers and tech entrepreneurs do not view such regulation as a positive move, saying blocking free VoIP providers stifles innovation in a sector where startups have limited access to capital.
They have also claimed that the blockade goes against the principles of net neutrality, where VoIP services ought to be treated as part of the data package paid for by broadband subscribers.

CTU to review CWC’s acquisition of Columbus – Caribbean

The Trinidad-based Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) announced it would become involved in the investigation of the proposed acquisition by Cable & Wireless (CWC) of Columbus International, Trinidad Express reported.
The CTU will hold a meeting of its member states and of national and regional regulatory authorities during a meeting on December 10 and 11 to discuss the deal.
The organization said the deal should be of concern to all regulatory authorities, and should be considered in the context of the gains achieved in the liberalization of the sector.
CWC rival Digicel expressed its approval of the intervention, saying in a press release that “it commends the responsible and efficient manner in which the CTU has approached this challenge. Without question, this proposed acquisition of Columbus by CWC represents the single most important development in the telecommunications section in the Caribbean since liberalization.”
CTU joins Caribbean telecom authority Ectel in the review of the US$1.85bn deal, which UK-based CWC announced in November. Digicel has expressed its opposition to the deal since its announcement.

Oi picks Altice for Portugal Telecom sale – Brazil, Dominican R.

Brazilian telecoms operator Oi entered exclusive talks with Luxembourg-based Altice for the sale of Oi’s operations in Portugal (PT Portugal), which were inherited from its merger with Portugal Telecom.
With the decision, Oi shut the door on investment funds Apax Partners and Bain Capital, which had made a joint offer of 7.08bn euros (US$8.8bn) for the assets.
Oi has entered into an exclusivity agreement with Altice for 90 days. The goal is to finalize the terms of the sale and give time for the companies’ boards to green light the transaction, Oi said in a statement.
Altice initially offered 7.03bn euros on a cash and debt free basis, which includes a 400mn-euro earn-out related to future revenue generation of Portugal Telecom and another 400mn-euro earn-out related to future operating free cash flow.
The amount was subsequently upped to 7.4bn euros, excluding cash and debt, including an earn-out of 500mn euros related to PT Portugal’s generation of future revenues.
The offer does not include Portugal Telecom’s assets in Africa and East Timor.
Oi also received a bid from Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos for Portugal Telecom SGPS, the holding company of Portugal Telecom. The bid was rejected.
Portugal Telecom SGPS holds a 25.6% stake in CorpCo, the company to be formed following the merger with Oi.
The sale of PT Portugal is seen as necessary as Oi seeks to reduce its high debt levels.
Oi is also said to be looking to raise cash to finance acquisitions in Brazil, namely a joint bid with Claro and Vivo for rival TIM.
Altice, controlled by French-Israeli businessman Patrick Drahi, completed last week the acquisition of mobile operator SFR through its French subsidiary Numericable.
Altice has assets in France, Israel and the Dominican Republic.

Roundup: Motorola Chile, ICE, Tigo Paraguay – Regional

Alberto Valdivieso Vaillant was named general manager of Motorola Solutions Chile, the company announced in a press release.
Valdivieso joined Motorola Solutions over a decade ago, first as executive account manager and deputy general manager. Previously he had been country manager at Iridium Chile.
Costa Rican telco ICE is expanding its 4G LTE network with the construction of 354 radio bases, El Financiero reported.
The new infrastructure was deployed in urban areas and remote provinces, in an effort to bring the network to the whole country.
ICE’s manager for telecommunications Jaime Palermo did not specify the investment figure, but said it was in the “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Tigo Paraguay received 20bn guaraníes (US$4.5mn) in subsidies from regulator Conatel to expand its service, ABC reported.
The investment was the result of a tender aimed at improving infrastructure and increasing coverage of mobile and fixed telephony, as well as Internet and data, in rural and remote areas of the country. Tigo was the only bidder.

Hondutel posts smaller loss – Honduras

State-run Honduran telco Hondutel saw its losses fall 63% in the first nine months of the year.
The company’s loss for the period was 189mn lempiras (US$8.9mn), according to its latest financial statements, compared to a loss of 510mn lempiras in January to October last year.
Revenues grew to 1.79bn lempiras from 1.78bn lempiras.
Last year Hondutel posted a loss of 752mn lempiras, its highest ever.
The company has been struggling for a while, reportedly needing US$600mn in investment to survive. Despite congress allocating 86mn lempiras for infrastructure improvements and being in talks with foreign investors, Hondutel had to cut its expenses and suspend 700 employees in September.

The information presented and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CANTO and/or its members