October 22, 2012 9:06 AM
PHILIPSBURG--Usually reliable sources indicated over the weekend that Governor Eugene Holiday has signed a 'landsbesluit' (ordinance) formalizing the concession to allow Corporate Innovations N.V. to establish a mobile network.
If confirmed and if Corporate Innovations proceeds, St. Maarten would have three mobile networks again, following the closure of East Caribbean Cellular which left the island, with UTS and TelCell as mobile carriers. The signing could not be confirmed over the weekend by any relevant authority.
The Daily Herald understands that the concession request of Corporate Innovations was sent to the Governor by former Telecommunications Minister Franklin Meyers after the Court in First Instance ordered the Minister to make a decision within eight weeks on the request. This was late 2011 and it could not be ascertained over the weekend when the Minister sent the 'landsbesluit' on to the Governor for signing.
The controlling principals behind Corporate Innovations are not known since it was listed under the directorship of Brenda Wathey and incorporated (in 2000) when Roland Duncan was attorney. Duncan has clarified that he acted as its first director and eventually turned over the company to its owners. When last checked by this newspaper (in 2011) the directorship had been listed under the name of A. Maduro. Former Minister Meyers when leaving office this year also dismissed claims that he and his family were behind the company and challenged anyone to say so publicly.
The reported granting of the concession also presents several scenarios for Corporate Innovations. The company can choose to deploy its own mobile network, it can also choose to sell to another party, or it could "shop around" and look for a strategic partner. So, hypothetically, if TelEm finally settles on a strategic partner such as Digicel, Corporate Innovations could partner with LIME, giving St. Maarten a possible scenario of TelEm/Digicel, Corporate/LIME and Chippie as the third mobile carrier.
While experts will say that the consumer will benefit with additional competition on the market, the economics and population make-up of St. Maarten could make it financially challenging for one of the providers to survive.
The last approved telecommunications market analysis for St. Maarten, conducted in 2009, shows that UTS commanded a greater share of the mobile telephone market than TelCell as of 2009, even if by a small margin. At that time, UTS commanded 49 per cent of the market, while TelCell 48.3 per cent.
The market analysis was conducted by JRJ Inc. and Prescod & Associates, and was approved by the then Executive Council on April 8, 2010. The analysis points out that the mobile market in St. Maarten, as in most countries in the Eastern Caribbean, has seen such significant growth in the subscriber base that it actually exceeds the recorded population of the country.
In fact, a review of market statistics for the island shows more than 68,300 mobile phones in the market at that time. This suggests a situation where many persons carry multiple phones and very probably have subscriptions with multiple carriers. "This does not bode well for the emergence of the expected effects of competition, as the carriers are largely not competing with each other; they are each operating almost independently of the other as providers with significant market power," the analysis outlined.
(The Dailly Herald)