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CWC pumping US$250m into LIME Jamaica

Published:Sunday | September 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Phil Bentley, CEO of Cable and Wireless Communications, briefs the press on plans for LIME Jamaica in Kingston on Friday, September 5. LIME Jamaica Managing Director Garfield Sinclair is at right. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Richard Browne, Business Reporter

Cable and Wireless Communications Plc (CWC) is making a renewed effort to turn around the fortunes of subsidiary LIME Jamaica, with a planned investment of US$250 million in the network over the next three years.

The amount more than doubles the company's spend in Jamaica over the last five years, according to Phil Bentley, chief executive officer of CWC.

"It's a level of investment that we've never made in the region," Bentley said.

He was speaking at his first Jamaican press conference since coming to office on his tour of various markets in the region. The conference was held at LIME headquarters in Kingston and got off 40 minutes late due to the late arrival of the CEO.

The US$250 million is 25 per cent of the total amount of US$1 billion that the telecoms company will be spending in its Caribbean markets over the next three years. CWC has already spent about $79 million of that in a mobile upgrade and expansion.

Mission to change fortunes

Bentley is on a mission to change the fortunes of the established telecoms provider, which lost dominance in the mobile market to Digicel when that company launched in Jamaica 12 years ago.

LIME, which has been in Jamaica for some 140 years, has had a "chequered history," said Bentley, "and my role is to get Cable and Wireless back on track" .

"We haven't invested enough in the markets," Bentley said. "My job is to turn our business around and ensure our business in the Caribbean gets the investment it deserves."

Some of Jamaica's fixed line exchanges date from the 1940s and 1950s, he said.

Bentley believes there is much room for growth in the Jamaican market, with smartphone penetration standing at only 30 per cent compared to almost 100 per cent in the North American and European markets. Broadband also stands at 30 per cent, which would be much higher in more developed markets, he said.

As one of the larger islands, "Jamaica is a very important market" and is also "one of our fastest growing markets," he said. "We want to have the very best network across the island.

The market has also started to grow, with the company adding 200,000 new customers and 100,000 data plan customers this year; and the company is also investing in fibre cables in major population centres to provide service at an increased speed of 50 megabits per second, said Bentley.

The company also plans to get back into the TV service with LIME TV, which is to be launched next year, and aims to grow its business to business (B2B) and business to government (B2G) segments, in areas such as storage and transmission of data, he said.

The CEO said he would be back to Jamaica in a few months to assess LIME's progress.