BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday September 6, 2018 – A BDS$1.5 million (US$750,000) debt to telecommunications giant Cable & Wireless has left Barbados’ newest mobile provider, Ozone Wireless, unable to provide service to hundreds of customers.
The one-year-old company confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that Cable & Wireless, which operates in Barbados as Flow, had “disconnected all local services to Ozone”, resulting in a “reduction in service” to users in certain areas. However, about 60 per cent of the Ozone network, representing 1,350 customers, remains connected on the back-up offered by the other big telecoms company, Digicel.
“Ozone is working around the clock with potential investors and the Fair Trading Commission to address this challenge,” Ozone said. “They apologize for any inconvenience caused and at this point would also like to thank all of their loyal customers who have stayed the course with Ozone Wireless. We look forward to resuming normal service as soon as possible.”
Chief Executive Officer Dr Nicholas Kelly acknowledged his company’s debt, telling local media that Cable & Wireless had previously threatened to pull the plug unless his company paid half.
“We tried to negotiate with them, to offer them, like any other creditors, a payment plan to pay them what we owe them over the next three years and they flatly refused,” he told the Nation newspaper.
Kelly told online newspaper Barbados Today that similar proposals had been made to and were accepted by other creditors, but Cable & Wireless was the only one that insisted on a payment of 50 per cent of outstanding monies.
“I just can’t tell you what is going to happen, but we are really hoping that by the end of September there is some kind of resolution. I am doing my best to maintain the company,” he said.
This is not the first sign of trouble for Ozone in recent times.
Kelly said in July that the company owed BDS$8 million (US$4 million) to over 50 creditors, and would undertake a three-year debt re-profiling programme.
He said the company had frozen all debt payments until January 2019, and would reduce its staff compliment from 60 to 12, and that while Ozone would maintain its voice over LTE service, its primary focus would be on data provision.
Director general of the Barbados Consumers Research Organization Inc, Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt has charged that Cable & Wireless’ decision may have been a power play to drive out the competition.