It seems that reports of the demise of Gambian operator Comium may have been premature. The Gambian media is now suggesting that, following a suspension of its activities imposed by the Public Utilities and Regulatory Authority (PURA) until 4 November, Comium may be planning to pay back its debts.
In fact Comium said as much in a recent press conference where it suggested that a UK investor in the company is available and committed to paying the remaining dues owed to the Gambian government if PURA lifts the planned suspension and allows the company to resume operations. It also suggested at the press conference that it is owed some $407,500 by state-owned operator Gamtel.
A few weeks ago, PURA issued a notice to Comium that it had been failing to pay its regulatory dues and other charges as part of the authority's rules. Nor had Comium reassured the authority that it is competitive and sustainable.
The company seems to have left its response to the last day before the deadline, when it pledged to make a payment of 14 million Gambian dalasi (about $271,660). It’s not a vast amount; the company’s remaining licence and spectrum fees amount to about $1,266,834 and the outstanding international voice gateway liabilities are around $49,172.
At the time it was widely reported that a licence revocation was imminent. It now appears that Comium has bought itself more time, although it is unclear who the international investor is that will resolve its current financial and network issues.
Meanwhile government efforts are being made to ensure that the 125 Comium staff don't suffer due to the suspension.
What is described as surprising news in the local press was apparently the result of some positive meetings, but it still leaves a lot of overdue licensing, spectrum and international gateway fees outstanding.