Monday 19 August, 2019

Caricel to serve customers under new agreement after court ruling

Minette Lawrence (centre) company secretary of Symbiote Investments, operators of Caricel makes a point at a press briefing on Wednesday. Also pictured is the company's attorney Lord Anthony Gifford (left) and Symbiote CEO Lowell Lawrence (right). (Photo: Marlon Reid)

Minette Lawrence (centre) company secretary of Symbiote Investments, operators of Caricel makes a point at a press briefing on Wednesday. Also pictured is the company's attorney Lord Anthony Gifford (left) and Symbiote CEO Lowell Lawrence (right). (Photo: Marlon Reid)

Symbiote Investments, operators of Caricel Jamaica says it will continue working for customers under a new agreement with a local wireless company, following a recent Court of Appeal ruling.

While Symbiote would cease operations as it takes the matter to the Privy Council, the brand will continue to work for customers under a new agreement with Xtrinet, Symbiote Investments’ company secretary, Minette Lawerence disclosed at a press conference at the company’s Eastwood Park Road office in Kingston on Wednesday.

She said the Caricel network continues to operate under a licence but Symbiote itself has no licence and cannot operate.

“It is a distinction of importance because the OUR itself was advised of this decision, but they have had no follow-up communication with us on it and so I could be charitable and say they are not fully apprised of the details, but they are aware,” she said.

The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) last Sunday advised that as a result of a Court of Appeal decision on March 29, 2019, Symbiote Investment Limited, which operates as Caricel, is not authorised to own or operate a facility, nor is it permitted to provide telecommunications or other specified services in Jamaica, as defined in the Telecommunications Act, to the public.

On December 10, 2018, Caricel placed all its licensed facilities and operations under the immediate control of Xtrinet Limited; a locally licensed Carrier and Service Provider. Notification of this arrangement was provided to the OUR by correspondence dated December 12, 2018, as well as the Governor General, Symbiote said.

Lawrence, however, said details of the agreement between Symbiote Investments and Xtrinet, could not be disclosed.

Symbiote’s attorney, Lord Anthony Gifford, said he has already contacted the Privy Council's registrar, for an emergency hearing, to settle the matter quickly.

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Last December, the Supreme Court denied Symbiote's application for leave to apply for judicial review of the then minister, Andrew Wheatley's decision to revoke its telecommunications licence. The Court of Appeal also refused the company's request that a temporary stay is granted until it makes an application for permission to appeal to the Privy Council.

Lawrence, and her husband Lowell, who serves as CEO for the company, contend that OUR’s announcement on Sunday, that Symbiote is not permitted to provide telecommunications or other specified services in Jamaica, was “intemperate and contentious”.

“They know what has been done and they are presumed to know that the law allows any other licence carrier to take control and to own and operate the facilities. So the customers are no longer our customers,” Minette said, with tears welling up in her eyes.

Symbiote believes that systematical prejudices led to the government's revocation of its telecommunications licence that eventually resulted in the company having to cease operations.

The couple argued that a variety of local interests and factors worked in different ways that conspired against the company's survival.

Symbiote Investment started facing challenges just after they got the licence to operate in 2015, which continued to the eventual closure, according to the company’s CEO, Lowell Lawrence.

He said Symbiote struggled with quality service that it was given, and was challenged by competitors who did not want them around.

“People need to understand that this is about competition. When we started this company as far back as trying to purchase equipment, we were told by the vendors, that operators told them that we would never get a license in this country,” he said.

"And every step of the way, they have tried all that they could to stop this company, so believe me when I tell you that this is about competition. It is unfortunate that the regulators and others get caught up into what they are told without looking at it properly, without investigating it, without giving the company the opportunity to be heard. It is very unfortunate”

"But the fact is we ought not to exist as a company because we are a threat to what exists," he added.
 

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