JT and Sure have accepted they were wrong to discuss a 5G network-sharing deal, with the competition watchdog announcing it is dropping an investigation into the agreement.
Last January, the Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority, along with its Guernsey counterpart, issued a statement alleging that the two largest telecoms operators in the Channel Islands might have breached competition law by entering into agreements in relation to the construction and operation of 5G networks in the two islands.
This was after the two firms had signed a ‘Memorandum Of Understanding’ to share elements of their mobile networks across the islands.
Now JT, Sure and the JCRA have reached a compromise, with the operators agreeing to “support a programme of modernising regulation to help set conditions for investment in new mobile technology, including 5G”, according to a release from the authority.
Graeme Millar, Chief Executive Officer of JT, said: “JT is fully committed to working with the authority to ensure that the Jersey telecoms market is fair and open, operates in the interests of consumers and that any shared networks support open competition.
“With hindsight, we recognise that the MOU was not the best way of achieving these goals and we fully intend to comply with the new licence conditions going forward which provide further clarity and a transparent structure for future engagement between all the operators in Jersey.”
Pictured: JCRA CEO Tim Ringsdore: "Today's announcement is good news for consumers in Jersey"
Ian Kelly, Group Chief Executive of Sure, said: “Sure is committed to ensuring that markets are fair and open, because our customers expect the freedom to choose.
“Sure accepts that the terms of the MoU were misguided, in that they did not clearly set out how JT and Sure would achieve effective network sharing that was in the interests of consumers on Jersey or which would facilitate open competition.
“The detailed work that we were able to do with the authority during the investigation has helped to clarify some of the issues around network sharing.
The JCRA said that, as part of the modernisation process, JT and Sure had agreed to support proposed changes to their statutory licences. It added that new licence conditions would provide for “clear obligations” to ensure that any use of shared assets or networks is fully compatible with “healthy competition, benefiting consumers through lower prices and faster roll-out of new technology”.
“Following the operators’ commitments, and in light of their public commitment to ensuring that any future network sharing will take competition law requirements fully into account, the authority has decided to close its investigation into an earlier MOU that was entered into, and then terminated, by JT and Sure,” it said.
Tim Ringsdore, CEO of the JCRA said: “Today's announcement is good news for consumers in Jersey. First, it lays the ground for the next wave of mobile technology, which will benefit everyone who lives, works on or visits Jersey.
“Second, it affirms the importance of competition law here in Jersey. The authority is clear that it will not allow companies to act in breach of the competition law, which is designed to ensure markets work well for the benefit of all consumers and business in Jersey.”
The decision by the JCRA to close its case, which is based on “administrative priority”, does not involve any decision being taken on whether JT and/or Sure breached the Island’s Competition Law. It also has no bearing on a parallel investigation being undertaken by Guernsey’s competition watchdog.
Responding to the dropping of the JCRA's investigation, Jersey's third mobile operator, Airtel-Vodafone, said: "We are surprised to hear that this investigation has been closed without sharing any findings.
"We are fully committed to enabling new technologies such as 5G and welcome any regulatory framework that promotes equitable access to shared infrastructure for the benefit of all the stakeholders.
"These details have not been provided, but we are looking forward to working closely with the JCRA to understand how the wider impact to the industry will be addressed."
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