The acquisition by Denis O’Brien’s Digicel Group of Cingular Wireless’ Dominica operation has been agreed in principle by the island’s government.
For Digicel, the development is a necessary step on the road to acquire Cingular Wireless’ entire Caribbean and Bermuda operations. Digicel agreed to acquire the businesses in June in a multimillion -dollar deal that will significantly increases the size of Digicel’s pan-Caribbean mobile network.
The acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approval on each individual island, will expand Digicel’s network to Bermuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica, in addition to its existing nine markets of operation, which include the most recent addition of Trinidad and Tobago. The acquisition also strengthens Digicel’s market share in the Cayman Islands, Grenada, St Lucia, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines, where Cingular’s customer base will transfer to Digicel, and gives it the licences it needs to provide services in St Martin, St Barths, Guadeloupe and Martinique.
Dominica’s Minister for Housing, Lands, Telecommunications, Energy and Ports Reginald Austrie, warmly welcomed Digicel’s impending arrival on the island saying the mobile operator would play “a significant role in raising the quality and level of communications services on the island”.
“We are delighted to have received this approval in principal from the Commonwealth Government of Dominica,” said Digicel chairman, Denis O’Brien. “We are working with Cingular on full integration plans to ensure that this process will be as seamless as possible with former Cingular customers in Dominica being able to keep their mobile phone, telephone number as well as their current benefits.”
Full approval of the acquisition will be subject to final approval by the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) Council of Ministers.
Digicel plans to enter into a roaming agreement with Cingular that will provide former Cingular and Digicel customers with favourable roaming rates in additional markets. Digicel’s planned expansion to five new territories — Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Dominica and St Kitts & Nevis — will also result in more savings on calls within the Digicel network.
With investments in the Caribbean exceeding US$600m, Digicel recently reached a milestone of 1,051 employees in only its fourth year of operation. The company anticipates a 30pc increase in staff by the end of 2006, due to subscriber growth and market expansion.
By Brian Skelly