Government says Digicel to withdraw lawsuit

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The Antigua and Barbuda government says the Irish-owned telecommunication company, Digicel, has agreed to withdraw a lawsuit objecting to the plan to share the 850 megahertz spectrum with the state-owned Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA).

In May, Digicel, which is one of two foreign telecommunications companies publicly against the move by the Gaston Browne government, defended its decision to secure a High Court order preventing the government from confiscating any of the 850 MHz spectrum it has been allocated.

Digicel said that it had taken the legal action because it wanted to shield its customers from “significant service disruption and a negative impact on coverage.”

The government had said it is hoping that the High Court would bring about a resolution to the opposition by Digicel and Flow, formerly the British telecommunication giant, Cable and Wireless, to share the island’s spectrum with APUA.

A statement issued after the weekly Cabinet meeting on Thursday, noted that Prime Minister Browne had announced that a settlement has been achieved with Digicel over sharing the 850 megahertz band and the 900 megahertz band with APUA/PCS.

“Digicel will transfer two megs of the 850 band and nine megs of the 900 band to APUA. Digicel will also discontinue its lawsuit against the Government and APUA. The APUA will now seek a final settlement with Cable and Wireless/FLOW for transfer of three megs of the 850 band. APUA/PCS will then be able to offer more services to its growing customer base,” the Cabinet statement noted.

Meanwhile, the statement said that APNU officials also explained to Cabinet the reasons for the recent load-shedding, and to put forward solutions to the growth challenges faced by APUA Electricity.

“The peak electricity demand has moved from 51 megawatts in 2014, to 56 megawatts daily; by December 2019, peak demand will reach 60 megawatts. As the economy grows, demand for the supply of all services will increase, including electricity supply, it was agreed.”

The statement said that the load-shedding became necessary after one of the two Blackpine Engines that produces 17 megawatts of electricity was off-line for maintenance, when another tripped.

“The Cabinet repeated its instructions of more than five years that any increase in electricity supply is to come from renewable energy, including wind and solar power, backed up by battery storage. Antigua and Barbuda aims to make electricity supply 100 per cent renewable by 2030, ending a history of dependence on fossil fuels’ electricity,” the statement added.

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