By Andrew Green, Staff Reporter
CABLE & Wireless is making an $800 million investment to secure its position as the dominant player in Jamaica's telecommunications market.
The company will 'overlay' is current GSM/GPRS 1900 megahertz high frequency system with a lower frequency 850 megahertz signal. Chief operating officer Sean Bryan said this would improve the quality of its service.
"It allows full in-building penetration," Mr. Bryan said at a C&W press conference yesterday. One of the problems C&W mobile customers now have is garbled transmissions or dropped calls when they use their cell phones within buildings. That problem should now be alleviated.
The service is to be rolled out across the island with a concentration on major urban centres and the main transportation routes. Upgrading started yesterday and continues through to June 21.
INCREASE IN DATA TRAFFIC
The result should be an increase in data traffic on the company's systems, Mr. Bryan said at the Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston. "The growth is going to be among corporate customers."
Digicel and C&W are the main competitors in the cellular communications market, and Patrick Gillings, the C&W senior vice-president for marketing and communications, conceded that Digicel has more customers than his company. But he said C&W was competing on a different level than just the number of customers. The company has retained most of its high value corporate customers and the new investment will help it to keep them, Mr. Gillings said.
"Corporate customers are data centred," said Ian Neita, senior vice-president with responsibility for mobile services. The increased in-building penetration offered by the new system, "will give corporate customers greater flexibility to transmit data using their mobile system."
While there is tough competition in the mobile market, C&W overwhelmingly dominates the fixed-line market, with about 500,000 customers. Corporate customers remain dependent on their fixed-line connections to facilitate their data transmission requirements until they get access to a robust wireless network.
"It is a competitive environment in voice (transmission)," Mr. Bryan said. "We want to do data."
The largest revenue source for C&W remains its land line system, Mr. Neita said. The proliferation of cellular phones has resulted in an increased number of calls terminating on the system.
But worldwide, fixed line systems are not growing as quickly as mobile systems, Mr. Neita said. "People are communicating more by mobile."
Internationally, mobile operators are trying to improve their networks to the point where fixed lines would no longer be necessary to achieve reliable Internet access. Cable & Wireless is aiming to outmanoeuvre its competitors by providing this option first on its mobile network.
"This is a significant growth area as a result of the high value of the data," Mr. Neita said. Rather than a focus on volume, the investment will bring added value to the company.
Cable & Wireless Jamaica has spent J$16 billion from 1999 to date on its mobile network. This covers coverage, capacity and technology.