POTENTIAL buyers of the two broadband licences will no longer have to deposit up to US$3 million ($304 million) to participate in the auction.
Also, they won't have to present a bank guarantee or bond in the amount of half the value of their proposed bids until the day of the auction (which is now on October 11), as the Spectrum Management Authority (SMA) has removed the pre-qualification stage altogether.
That stage was considered to be onerous, according to Henry Batson, acting managing director of the SMA.
Pre-qualification meant, bidders would have to make "intention to bid deposits" — US$3 million (for Band 17) and million or US$2.7 million (for Band 13) -- as commitment to pay at least the reserve price for the spectrum licence.
A request for bids will open next Monday -- almost four months after the original target date — and the the state agency charged with overseeing the sale of the telecommunications licences has set a tentative date for issuing the licences at December 18.
One of the two band licences, which is hoped to deepen broadband Internet penetration in the country is priced at a minimum of US$40 million ($4 billion), while the other costs US$5 million more.
During the auction stage, bidders will be required to submit only one bid per band, but at least two applicants must bid on a single band, or the process may be aborted in the overall interest of achieving a fair and transparent outcome, according to the SMA.
By the time the auction is completed, and before the granting of the licences, successful bidders must satisfy the requirements of the Telecommunications Act and must hold a service provider licence or be eligible to do so.
Moreover, bidders must be independent of each other and must declare any direct or indirect cross-ownership in any other entity applying for the spectrum licence.
"Successful bidders will be informed in writing by a date specified in the request for bid if they are successful in their application to be awarded a 700 MHz spectrum licence by meeting the post-qualification criteria," said the SMA. Licences will be issued upon receipt of a 50 per cent deposit.
What's more, bidders may be given a payment plan.
"It should be noted that the final payment option is still being determined, that is, lump sum versus payment plan," said the SMA in its addendum to the information memorandum published on August 30.
But the new licence award process isn't the only change.
A decision was taken to not impose the in-band cap, which was originally contemplated along with an aggregate cap.
The sale of the two 700-megahertz (MHz) band licences, which allow for the provision of 4G technology, such as Long Term Evolution (LTE), it is hoped, will significantly deepen broadband Internet penetration in Jamaica.
Internationally the band was used for analogue television broadcasting, but has been allocated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for broadband wireless services.
Winners of the spectrum licence will be required to launch commercial services within 18 months, if they already operate in Jamaica, or no later than 24 months for new entrants.
What's more, incumbents will have to commit to 50 per cent population coverage within the first year-and-a-half and 90 per cent with four years, while newcomers will have to reach 30 per cent of the population by the end of its second year after getting the licence. They also get a year more than existing telecommunications operators to hit the 90 per cent mark.