Jamaica and Cuba made headlines in the last month, while an innovative satellite project took to the skies to provide broadband to emerging markets.
Jamaica’s Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) approved a mobile termination rate (MTR) of J$1.10 (US$0.01), down from J$5, becoming effective July 1 and lasting until June 30, 2018 in a bid to level the playing field in a market where Digicel accounts for some 90% and LIME the remainder.
Digicel and LIME immediately announced they would be slashing their rates for consumers.
And turning up the heat more on its rival LIME, Digicel announced it would be launching a landline network in July using wireless technology to challenge LIME’s dominance in that area.
Meanwhile LIME said it was confident it would benefit from number portability, once introduced, by attracting customers from Digicel.
The drafting and publication of number portability rules in Jamaica is expected in July, state minister with responsibility for technology, Julian Robinson said.
A company is due to be selected to manage the number data base by September and testing activities for network readiness will be implemented between September this year and March 2014.
Still in Jamaica, the country’s telecommunications minister Phillip Paulwell said that plans to auction spectrum in the 700MHz band for LTE services were “back on track,” after the country’s Spectrum Management Authority (SMA) delayed the tender in May due to a lack of interest and suspicions that the minimum bidding price of US$40mn was too high.
Following a recent trip to China, Paulwell said there had been a positive response in terms of interest in the tender.
Digicel Group posted an 8% year-on-year increase in revenues in the fiscal year ended March 31 to US$2.78bn. Subscriber numbers rose 1% to 12.9mn across all the company’s 30 markets, with growth particularly driven by Haiti, Papua New Guinea, Trinidad & Tobago and Suriname.
Growth in value-added services and data revenues which reached 23% of overall service revenues was supported in part by Digicel’s HSPA+ 4G mobile offering. In the last month Digicel launched Haiti’s first HSPA+ network, following a similar rollout on St. Kitts and Nevis.
Also in the last month, Digicel finished the second phase of its expansion project in Guyana’s Jumbie Creek area in the Potaro-Siparuni region, bringing the company closer to its goal of 98% coverage in the country by the end of the year.
Despite being the newer entrant in Guyana, Digicel has already exceeded its competitor GT&T’s coverage after only three years of service.
Cuba announced it will begin digital TV tests in Havana using the Chinese Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcast (DTMB) standard and equipment donated by Beijing, while the analog switch-off is estimated for 2021.
Decoders will be donated as part of an agreement signed between the two countries to foster technical cooperation.
Most countries in Latin America have chosen to adopt the Brazilian adaptation of the Japanese digital TV standard, ISDB-T.
Cuban also made headlines announcing unrestricted internet access for the general public via government-owned telco Etecsa’s 118 internet centers throughout the country as of June 4.
Cubans were allowed access to the internet for the first time in February of this year. The service was previously provided exclusively to foreigners.
Providing the service has been facilitated by the fiber optic cable connecting Cuba to Venezuela and Jamaica which was activated this year.
Unrestricted internet navigation will have an initial cost of US$4.50 per hour, which is still prohibitively expensive for the majority of Cubans.
Given the country’s economic situation and the investment needed, it’s not possible to offer immediate generalized internet access, the country’s deputy communications minister, Wilfredo González, said.
A project that aims to provide fast and cheap broadband to billions of people in underserved areas saw the successful launch of its first four satellites.
O3b, whose name refers to the “other three billion” people that have limited or no access to connectivity believes it can provide cheap voice and data to operators by using a novel approach, with spacecraft flying in the medium-earth orbit (MEO) at 8,000km, a quarter of the distance from the earth than is the case of geostationary satellites.
The spacecraft will fly low enough to see latency that can compete with fiber and other terrestrial technologies.
Another four satellites will be launched in September before commercial services begin before year end and another four satellites will follow next year.
Customers already signed up for capacity include Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ozônio Telecomunicações for the Brazilian Amazon region, Skynet Colombia for the Colombian Amazon and ISP Quark of Guyana.
After nearly three years of delays Claro Puerto Rico launched the island’s first IPTV service in 37 municipalities, where it already offers direct-to-home (DTH) TV services.
Cable & Wireless Communications (C&WC) completed the disposal of its 51% stake in Macau’s largest telecoms group, Companhia de Telecomunicações de Macau (CTM), to Citic Telecom International for US$807mn. The transaction was intended to improve C&WC’s finances and let it concentrate on its Caribbean and Central American operations.
C&WC’s Caribbean unit LIME has appointed Martin Roos as acting CEO to replace David Shaw.
In February this year, David Shaw decided to step down from his position. Parent company Cable & Wireless Communications’ (C&WC) chief executive Tony Rice replaced Shaw on an interim basis.