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Today, the Turks and Caicos Islands Telecommunications Commission (the “Commission”) released its Telecommunications Decision 2013 – 2 on the assignment of prime 700 MHz spectrum licences in which it awarded the two available licences to Digicel and Islandcom.

Due to its technical characteristics, 700 MHz spectrum is ideally suited for the deployment of mobile broadband services. With this in mind, a key objective of the Commission’s Decision is to promote the timely deployment of the latest generation of mobile broadband technology throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands – namely 4th generation Long Term Evolution or “4G LTE” technology. With 4G LTE-based mobile broadband services, consumers and businesses will have access to significantly higher data transmission speeds compared to currently deployed mobile wireless technologies, more consistent quality of service and a far richer mobile multimedia experience.

The Commission’s Decision addressed the assignment of the two available “prime” 700 MHz spectrum blocks. The first, commonly referred to as “Lower B & C”, was assigned to Digicel and the second, referred to as “Upper C”, was assigned to Islandcom. These two 700 MHz spectrum blocks are considered as “prime” spectrum due to the fact that 4G LTE mobile devices are currently available in the market allowing for the immediate deployment of 4G LTE-based mobile broadband service using these specific 700 MHz spectrum blocks.

Under the licence conditions established by the Commission both Digicel and Islandcom are required to deploy 4G LTE mobile broadband services using the 700 MHz spectrum they were assigned within 18 months and coverage must be available to 98% of the population of the Turks and Caicos Islands within 36 months. With these conditions of licence, the Turks and Caicos Islands will be one of the first jurisdictions within the Caribbean to benefit from 4G LTE-based mobile broadband services.

In return for being awarded its preferred 700 MHz spectrum block (i.e., Lower B & C), Digicel agreed to improve on these deployment requirements so that at least 75% of the population would have access to 4G LTE services within 18 months and 98% within 30 rather than 36 months. In addition, Digicel committed to providing several additional public benefits, including (i) free 4G LTE-based Internet connectivity to all public/Government primary and secondary schools and community colleges, (ii) a subsidized 4G LTE device and data bundle for students and teachers and (iii) one Digital Classroom with equipment and training for every public school and one per each campus of the community college.

The Commission’s Prime 700 MHz Spectrum Assignment Decision completes a comprehensive public consultation process addressing 700 MHz spectrum policy matters and a subsequent two-stage call for 700 MHz spectrum applications process that commenced in early 2011. This is the first time the Commission has conducted a comparative selection process to assign spectrum. This process was necessitated by the fact that there was excess demand for the available prime 700 MHz spectrum blocks under consideration. (The Decision 2013-2)