Panel rules in favour of TSTT in interconnection arbitration

An arbitration panel appointed by the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (“TATT”) comprising two internationally renowned regulatory experts and led by a local senior counsel)today ruled on interconnection rates between TSTT and Digicel . The decision affirmed the recommendation made by the first arbitration panel (also comprising international experts) about the mobile termination rate. The decision will not be good news for DIGICEL who has, from the inception, attempted to make a case for TSTT to pay it a higher interconnect rate for mobile termination than what Digicel would pay to TSTT. This decision on Digicel’s fourth dispute filed with TATT should pave the way for the two major mobile operators to finally conclude a commercial interconnection agreement.

Even before TSTT’s competitor for mobile services started operations in April 2006, it was anticipated that an interconnect agreement would have been concluded between the two companies. TSTT has concluded interconnection agreements with no less than 5 other concessionaires including Columbus Communications and Laqtel.. In all of those cases, reciprocal interconnection rates were set, that is, the parties paid each other the same rate. When negotiations with Digicel got underway, after an extended period of discussions, the two companies reached a deadlock on the issue of reciprocal interconnection rates. In addressing that issue, the first arbitration panel convened by TATT ruled in August 2006 that Digicel had no basis for wanting to pay TSTT a lower mobile termination rate than what it wanted from TSTT. Digicel subsequently challenged that decision and as such no agreement was ever executed by the companies.

Today the panel rejected Digicel’s arguments and upheld that the mobile termination rate should be reciprocal. In addition the panel set the mobile termination rate within the range of mobile termination rates already determined by the first panel two years ago. According to TSTT’s Executive Vice President of Fixed and Carrier Services, Lisa Agard this was a tremendous victory for consumers. “There was the very real possibility that Digicel’s demands for high charges would have caused rates to go up for TSTT’s fixed line and mobile customers.”