AT&T Wireless was awarded a license Tuesday to operate cellular telephone service in Jamaica’s newly liberalised telecommunications sector, officials said.
The four-year license will cost AT&T wireless US$6 million (Jamaican $360 million), far below the US$50 million (Jamaican $3 billion) paid by two current providers, Commerce Secretary Phillip Paulwell told reporters.
Under the plan, AT&T Wireless will invest Jamaican $1 billion (US$16.5 million) to build its network and could be operating in the resort towns of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril by the end of the year.
The Redmond, Washington-based company will also help market Jamaica as a tourist destination through its 23 million U.S.-based subscribers.
That number will swell to nearly 45 million subscribers pending the approval of a US$41 billion acquisition by Cingular Wireless announced last month.
“We are seeing an opportunity in Jamaica that other carriers can’t really realize,” said Carmen Forstmann, manager of business development for AT&T Wireless.
The company will join Irish-owned Digicel and New York-based Oceanic Digital as the only cellular providers granted licenses since Jamaica began opening its telecommunications sector in 2000.
Paulwell defended the lower license fee for AT&T Wireless, saying it will cost the company considerably more to develop its network as Jamaica’s cellular market is already saturated.
“We have been very lucky to get the price that we have,” Paulwell told RJR radio. “It’s the most expensive license that they have acquired in the region.”
Jamaica opened its sector fully last year, following many other English-speaking Caribbean countries that pledged to end more than four decades of monopoly by British telecommunications giant Cable & Wireless.
Jamaica has one of the region’s fastest growing cellular telephone markets, with about 1.4 million mobile users on the island of 2.6 million.
AT&T Wireless split from Bedminster, New Jersey-based AT&T Corp. in July 2001.
AT&T Wireless already operates in several other Caribbean countries, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and recently acquired a license to operate in Grenada.