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Another small player emerges in wireless broadband market

Published:Friday | August 27, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Another small outfit, the little-known Nubian-1 Tech Services Limited, has tossed its hat into the wireless broadband ring.

No stranger to the telecommunications industry, the 13-year-old company recently applied to the Office of the Utilities Regulation (OUR) for an Internet service provider, or ISP, licence.

The Lyndhurst Road, St Andrew, -based company was first incorporated as contractors in 1997 under the name ANKHS Limited and offered dial-up internet to both residential and businesses clients in certain pockets of island.

It is now looking to create a niche among lower-end Internet consumers, but at slower speeds than Digicel - which last week launched its blazing 4G platform - with coverage nationwide, but only 60 per cent penetration; and soon LIME Jamaica, which is now building out a 3G network for Montego Bay.

The initial ownership of the firm, capitalised with 900 ordinary shares, included Jassel Dunstan, engineer Lenworth Kelly, Jamaica's current ambassador to the United States, Audrey Marks, and husband, and, wife investors, Wayne and Meva Gadishaw, who together held controlling interest with 400 shares between them.

Meva Gadishaw, a trained industrial technical engineer, is the chief executive officer.

The company was renamed Nubian-1 and reincorporated in 2002 as a provider of telemarketing, computer engineering and Internet services.

By that time, Marks and Dunstan were no longer shareholders, while Ava and Sarah Gadishaw and engineer Kelvin Smith joined the ownership team.

"We came with a philosophy that we wanted to make Internet affordable to the common man," said Wayne Gadishaw, a civil engineer by profession.

"When we came in the market there was only Info-Channel and Cable and Wireless, and we thought that we could design and offer a quality service at a far cheaper cost than was being offered."

Multimillion-dollar expansion

Having spent J$20 million in expanding its infrastructure, the company says it offers both dial-up and wireless Internet with costs to residential customers ranging from J$1,528 for a basic package with a speed of 512 kilobytes to J$5,014 for 4Mbs. Corporate clients pay US$80 per megabyte for service up to 15Mbs in speed.

The company says it has coverage in Kingston and St Andrew, the Portmore and Spanish Town areas of St Catherine and pockets of Clarendon, and Montego Bay in St James.

It is now seeking to broaden coverage to St Mary and Portland.

Nubian-1 officials said the firm has an arrangement to piggyback on the network of Flow, the Columbus Communications subsidiary which is still rolling out its fibre-optic-enabled Internet, cable and telephone service across the country.

Flow has confirmed the arrangement.

With a staff of 20, Nubian-1 promises islandwide penetration within Flow's own 18-month timetable.

The planned expansion plans are set to pit the company against new kid on the block, Dekal Wireless, which already boasts a presence in the 14 parishes. It will also mean competing with the big telecoms, Digicel, LIME and Claro.

Meva Gadishaw is confident of customer-base growth.

"There are people, both business and residential who have been with us from inception," she said.

"People don't buy Internet because you advertise, they buy because a friend tells them it's good."

The most recent statistics from the OUR, covering the third quarter for 2009, show a 17.82 per cent increase in broadband Internet service subscriptions over the same period in 2008.

Dial-up service continues to decline, having registered a 23.19 per cent year-on-year decline.

In 2003, the company ventured into the DSL Internet market but aborted the plan shortly after citing the high cost to operate on that network.

"At the cost that we were getting the service for from Cable and Wireless, the margins were really too small and it did not make sense for us to keep that product," Meva Gadishaw said.