Iliad Group agreed to form a joint venture with debt-laden multinational operator Digicel Group to deploy and run passive network infrastructure in four Caribbean markets and French Guiana.
The JV will own existing and new passive infrastructure operated by either company in Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy and French Guiana.
Both partners will invest in the new venture with related commercial operations run independently on separate core networks.
In a statement, Iliad said the move would “significantly increase the number of mobile sites in the region and therefore raise coverage and speeds”. It ultimately aims to create one of the “largest telecom infrastructure networks in the French West Indies”.
Digicel already has operations in all five markets. GSMA Intelligence connection estimates for Q1 place the company as the second-largest player in Martinique, Guadeloupe and Saint Barthelemy; and third-largest in French Guiana and Saint Martin.
Segments of Orange lead all five markets, with French rival SFR also competing in Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana.
Digicel is yet to issue a formal statement on the JV, making it unclear what, if any, payment it will receive for absorbing existing assets into the new company or the level of operational savings expected.
Last month a Digicel Group affiliate began Chapter 15 bankruptcy proceedings in the US citing the need to restructure its unsustainable levels of debt.
Regional newspaper FranceAntilles reported Iliad had been deploying infrastructure in the region last month, though commercial services were yet to launch. It also noted Iliad won a licence under its Free brand to operate 4G services in Martinique during 2016.