Panama transfers Digicel’s licence to regulator and confirms AWS sale

Panama transfers Digicel’s licence to regulator and confirms AWS sale

Panama’s Cabinet Council, which is led by the country’s President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, has approved new resolutions concerning the republic’s telecoms sector.

The first of these is the takeover of Digicel Panama’s operating licence by the regulator ASEP (Autoridad Nacional de los Servicios Publicos / National Public Services Authority), which the government claims will “guarantee the continuity of the workers and the personal communications service.”

Digicel is withdrawing from the market and has applied for voluntary liquidation after the government cleared Cable & Wireless Panama’s proposed acquisition of Claro Panama. Digicel believes that the entity resulting from the merger will dominate the mobile sector, making Panama a competitively unviable market for smaller operators.

As part of this process, Digicel will sell off its Panamanian assets. Given the imminent merger of its two main rivals, Tigo Panama’s parent firm Millicom International Cellular would seem an obvious buyer – but the group’s CEO Mauricio Ramos has confirmed that it is not interested in this.

Speaking at Millicom’s Q122 earnings call, Ramos said: “We are not in M&A mode. We are in operational mode. So, whether Digicel stays on or doesn’t stay on, it really doesn’t significantly change what we … are delivering on.”

However, Tigo Panama has expressed interest in another resolution approved by the Cabinet Council – the clearance of a further 120MHz of AWS band spectrum for mobile broadband use. Following Cabinet Resolution 41-22 (which was passed on 12th April 2022), ASEP has set the AWS reserve price at PAB1,214,287 (US$1,214,287) per MHz, meaning that the available spectrum could bring in as much as US$145.68 million.

In the same earnings call, Ramos noted: “The government of Panama has released really reasonable prices [for] AWS spectrum, which we’ll be picking up. I think we’re in the process of buying it and acquiring it. Panama has historically had a really good spectrum policy, which is parity of spectrum for everybody.”

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