Caricel takes legal action to prevent Government revoking its spectrum license

05 January 2017 |


Caricel, the Jamaican mobile operator, has applied for an injunction to block the government from cancelling its spectrum license in fears over Chinese 'influence' on the company.

The spectrum license was to allow Symbiote Investments Limited, which trades as Caricel, to provide telecoms services. The license was granted last year amid concerns from the Office of the Contractor General and the US government. The Supreme Court is to rule on the matter on Thursday, local newspaper LoopNews has reported.

The move by the Andrew Holness administration to revoke the license comes amid pressure from the US, which appears to take the view that Symbiote Investments Limited is not 'a fit and proper entity' to operate a spectrum license.

As a part of the pressure, the US has revoked the visitors’ visa of persons associated with Caricel, including some of its lawyers. 

Chinese companies have invested huge amounts in the Caribbean region, whose principal trading partner remains the US. The region can only gain importance to China as outlined in China's November policy paper on the region, which noted that Latin American and Caribbean countries "are an important part of the developing world and a major force in the international arena".

The increased interest has worried Washington about Beijing's influence in its backyard. On a visit to the region in 2015, outgoing United States President Barack Obama warned about "strings attached" to Chinese investments. The situation can only intensify given President-elect Trump’s very public criticisms of the economic role China plays to the US.

Huawei is a major provider of technology services that Symbiote intends to use in providing its own services. Ericsson, a Swedish company and Huawei's main rival, is also among the suppliers. 

In 2012, a report from an intelligence committee of the US Congress concluded that Huawei and its Chinese rival, ZTE, were risks to the US, alleging that their equipment may be used by the Chinese to spy on the North American country. That report, although not providing any evidence to confirm the allegations, said ‘acquisitions, takeovers, or mergers’ in the US must be blocked.

Symbiote Investments Limited (or “Caricel”) is a Jamaican mobile broadband operator which utilises connected LTE-Advanced over a tower-based infrastructure network that extends mobile coverage throughout all parts of the Island. Caricel was hoping to continue expanding before this setback.