Jamaica’s Telecommunications Regime
Jamaica is a member of the International Telecommunications Union as well as the Caribbean Telecommunications Union.
The principal legislation governing telecommunications in Jamaica is the Telecommunications Act, 2000. Other relevant Acts include the Radio and Telegraph Control Act, the Fair Competition Act, the Broadcasting and Radio Re-Diffusion Act and the Office of Utilities Regulation Act. The principal telecommunications regulator is the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR).
The Spectrum Management Authority regulates the radio frequency spectrum on behalf of the Minister, while the Broadcasting Commission regulates the broadcasting and subscriber television industry primarily as a content regulator. The Government has consistently expressed an interest in creating a Super Regulator to regulate the converged sectors of telecommunications, broadcasting and spectrum management. To date no such regulator has been created nor has any legislation creating this regulator been tabled in Parliament.
However, the draft telecommunications policy (most recently update in February 2009) does make reference to a single regulator.
While the Fair Trading Commission regulates competition it has tended to defer to the OUR in regulating competition in the telecommunications sector.
The Jamaican Telecommunications industry currently comprises carriers and service providers i.e. mobile carriers and mobile service providers ( which currently are the same licensees,) internet service providers, data service providers, domestic carriers, domestic service providers, international voice service providers and international voice carriers.
There are 2 mobile providers:
- Cable and Wireless Jamaica Limited, part of the Liberty Latin America group of companies.
- Digicel Jamaica Limited, part of the Digicel Group of companies.
Both mobile providers offer island wide triple play bundled services – digital tv / cable, broadband internet, and home phone.
Prior to liberalization, in 2000, Jamaica’s teledensity was 17%, Cable and Wireless Jamaica, the telecommunications monopoly had 130,000 mobile subscribers and used TDMA technology. Jamaica’s teledensity is now over 100% with over 2 million mobile subscribers.
The liberalization of the Jamaican Telecommunications market began in 1997 when Jamaica made market access commitments to the World Trade Organization in relation to basic telecommunications and value added services. In 1999 the Government tabled in Parliament a modern telecommunications policy which addressed such issues as the role of the regulator, negotiations with the public telephone company, liberalization, universal service, interconnection, and spectrum management.
On September 30, 1999, the Government of Jamaica signed a historic agreement with Cable and Wireless Jamaica, the then monopoly telecommunications provider, for the liberalization of the telecommunications sector in three phases over a three year period.
Consequent to the Agreement, the Government sought to jump start the liberalization process with the auctioning of 2 mobile telecommunications licences even before the necessary legislation was in place to grant the licences.
In December 1999, companies were invited to bid for the two licences which would be awarded as soon as the proposed Telecommunications Bill was passed. The Government determined that at least one of the licences should utilize GSM Technology. Cellular One Caribbean Limited emerged the winner of one of the licences with a bid of US$ 45 million, for the 800 Mhz band using CDMA Technology. This bid was US$5million dollars more than the Government’s reserve price. No winner was declared for the GSM licence as no bid exceeded the Government’s reserve price of US$30 Million dollars.
The Government of Jamaica then decided to hold a second auction in January 2000. Mossel Limited a start-up company owned by Irish entrepreneur Dennis O’Brian emerged the only successful bidder for the GSM licence with a bid of US$ 47.5 million dollars. This bid was US$17 million more than they had bid in December 1999.
On March 1, 2000, Jamaica’s new Telecommunications Act which repealed the Telephone Act of 1893 and sections of the Radio and Telegraph Control Act came into effect.
The liberalization of the Jamaican Telecommunications market was a 3 phase process. Phase One commenced on March 1, 2000 and was for a period of 18 months. During that time the Minister was only empowered to issue Cellular, Reseller (Data, Internet and International Voice), Free Trade Zone Service and Carrier licences.
Phase Two commenced September 1, 2001 and extended the Minister’s power to grant licences to include domestic carrier and service provider licences as well as Internet licences for licensed cable operators.
Phase Three commenced March 1, 2003 and fully liberalized the Jamaican Telecommunications market.
Treaties & Agreements
- International Telecommunications Union
- Caribbean Telecommunications Union
- WIPO Copyright Treaty, 1996 (since 2002)
- WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, 1996 (since 2002)
- The Brussels Convention concerning Programme Carrying Satellite Signals (since 2000)
- Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, 1883(since 2000)
- World Trade Organization, 1995 (since 1995)
- USA/JA Bilateral Agreement on the Protection and Enforcement of Intellectual
- Property Rights, 1994
- Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary & Artistic Works (1886) (as
- revised 1971) (since 1994)
- Rome Convention, the International Convention on the Protection of Producers, Performers and Broadcasting Organizations, 1961 (since 1994)
- Geneva Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against
- Unauthorized Duplication of Their Phonograms, 1971 (since 1994)
- Nairobi Treaty on the protection of the Olympic Symbol, 1981(since 1984)
- World Intellectual Property Organization Convention, 1967 (since 1978)