Blow to Caricel

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Symbiote Investment Limited last Friday received a heavy blow in its battle with the Government when the Court of Appeal ruled that it is not authorised to own or operate a facility, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) stated yesterday.

According to the OUR, the Appeal Court decision also states that Symbiote, which operates as Caricel, is not permitted to provide telecommunications or other specified services, as defined in the Telecommunications Act, to the public.

“Following the Court’s decision, within the coming weeks the OUR will be exercising its powers under the Telecommunications Act to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Act and to protect the interest of consumers,” the OUR said in a news release.

Outlining the case, the OUR stated that the Appeal Court denied Symbiote’s application for a stay of the minister of science, energy and technology’s decision to revoke its telecommunications licences, and set aside the order granting it permission to appeal.

“The Court’s decision upheld the 2018 December Supreme Court decision to deny Symbiote’s application for leave to apply for judicial review of the minister’s decision. The Court of Appeal also refused the company’s request that a temporary stay be granted until it makes an application for permission to appeal to the Privy Council,” the OUR said.

The regulator reminded that the minister, by letter dated June 12, 2018, had indicated that with effect from April 10, 2018 the following telecommunications licences issued to Symbiote Investments Limited under the Telecommunications Act (the Act) were revoked:

• Licence Number 97/2015 — Mobile Service Provider (Symbiote Investments Limited), Licence 2015;

• Licence Number 98/2015 — Mobile Carrier (Symbiote Investments Limited), Licence 2015;

• Licence Number 113/2016 — Service Provider Licence [International (Voice & Data) Services];

• Licence Number 114/2016 — Carrier Licence;

• Licence Number 115/2016 — Service Provider Licence [Domestic Voice Services]; and

• Licence Number 116/2016 — Service Provider Licence [Internet Services].

The regulator also recalled that Symbiote challenged the minister’s decision, but on December 7, 2018 the Supreme Court denied its application for leave to apply for judicial review of the decision.

“Symbiote appealed to the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision and for a stay of execution of the minister’s decision, which resulted in the ruling from the Court of Appeal on March 29, 2019,” the OUR stated.

Caricel, which provides LTE broadband mobile data services, faced strong opposition to its entrance into the mobile networks services sector in March 2014, as the first Jamaican-owned network.

Despite a change in Government in 2016, however, the network was approved for a new mobile licence in May that year. But the contractor general objected to the licensing and, after a probe into Caricel’s operations, submitted concerns about the ownership of the company.

However, last year March Caricel CEO Lowell Lawrence said the company and its then new shareholder, Involution Limited categorically rejected any allegation that the legal and regulatory formalities were not observed, with regards to the transfer of shares.

“All necessary information was provided in a timely manner to the relevant authorities, and we have been more than accommodating of all government bodies seeking clarity on this matter,” Lawrence said in a news release.

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