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Digicel applies for pay-TV licence

Published: 
Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mobile operator Digicel is applying for a subscription broadcasting service via a telecommunications network, which is believed to be a cable licence, according to a Telecommunications Authority of T&T (TATT) notice dated August 18 posted to its Web site during the week ending August 29.

Comments on, or objections to, Digicel’s application for the licence may be submitted to TATT on or before September 15, 2014. In subscription TV, Flow, the market leader, has competition from TSTT (bmobile’s parent), DirecTV, Green Dot, smaller rural providers like MayaroCableTV, and even some off-the-grid pirates.

Digicel is no newcomer to cable TV. Digicel already owns cable television assets across the Caribbean. On July 17 (2014), Digicel had made an announcement that it was rolling out fibre in several markets through its sub-sea fibre optic acquisition that, at the time, was said to be “nearing completion.”

Digicel had announced that it reached an agreement with Telstar Cable Ltd to acquire its cable and fibre network in Jamaica. Telstar provides cable TV, broadband and telephony services. On completion—subject to approval by Jamaica’s Broadcasting Commission—Digicel said it would invest in the network to increase coverage and further expand the products, services and content available to cable customers in Jamaica.

The acquisition of Telstar was Digicel’s fourth Caribbean cable acquisition and will increase its cable footprint to six markets: 
• Turks and Caicos Islands, April 2014: Digicel acquired WIV Cable TV in the Turks and Caicos Islands and its sister company, TCT, which offers broadband services.
• Dominica, February 2014: Digicel acquired SAT Telecommunications provides a range of TV, telephony and broadband Internet services to residential and business customers in Dominica.
• Anguilla, Nevis and Montserrat, November 2013: Digicel acquired Caribbean Cable Communications Holding Ltd, a cable TV and Internet service provider in Anguilla, Nevis and Montserrat.

Major fibre build-out in T&T
“Digicel has also been investing heavily in greenfield fibre build-outs having broken ground on next-generation fibre networks in Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad,” Digicel said in last month’s release. “This investment in fibre reflects the company’s ongoing focus on business solutions which has shown almost 40 per cent year on year growth in revenues. These fibre builds are nearing completion and pre-selling of the services has already commenced.”

On its submarine fibre optic acquisition, Digicel said: “In order to drive the delivery of multimedia content—as well as improve offerings for mobile data services and business solutions—Digicel has also secured significant off-island sub-sea fibre bandwidth.”

In a December 23, 2013, release, Digicel said it entered into a share and asset purchase agreement with Global Caribbean Fibre to acquire “certain submarine fibre assets in the Eastern Caribbean region. This deal will provide Digicel with a wholly-owned submarine fibre optic cable network of approximately 2,100 kilometers (km), providing capacity from Trinidad to Guadeloupe. The proposed transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in the coming weeks.”

Digicel also entered into a transaction with Global Caribbean Fibre and Global Caribbean Network to provide submarine fibre capacity from Guadeloupe to Puerto Rico with onwards connectivity to the mainland United States. With these new capabilities, Digicel said it was “underpinning its commitments to delivering best network, best service and best value and will once again be at the forefront of driving competition and consumer choice in the region.”

In total, Digicel has secured access to a network comprised of 15 submarine segments with a reach of some 3,100 km across the Caribbean. “Digicel will also have extensive onwards capacity on other submarine networks connecting locations such as Miami, Paris and New York,” the company had said in a release.

Digicel Group CEO, Colm Delves, in written comments said: “We are investing heavily in cable TV, content and fibre across our markets to ensure that Digicel is positioned at the forefront of a data intensive world where our customers are able to enjoy multimedia experiences on multiple devices and avail of advanced solutions for their businesses. “We look forward to expanding our footprint further in this space in the coming year through a combination of acquisitions and greenfield builds.”

Digicel Group is a communications provider with operations in 32 markets in the Caribbean, Central America and Asia Pacific. After 13 years of operation, total investment to date stands at over US$5 billion worldwide, according to a Digicel statement.

Digicel posted a net loss of US$198.4 million in its 2013 fiscal year, down from a profitable position of US$47.2 million in fiscal year 2012 and its bonds are rated non-investment grade or “junk” by Fitch Ratings and Moody’s, two of the world’s top three credit rating agencies. In March, Digicel tapped the high-yield bond market to borrow US$865 million in senior notes, 

A statement from Digicel Group Ltd yesterday said it planned to use the net proceeds from the offering to repurchase any and all of its 10.50 per cent senior notes due 2018, pay any related fees and expenses, and redeem the senior notes, if any, that remain outstanding after the completion of the tender offer.