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Dekal Wireless gives WiFi access to rural Jamaica

Published:Wednesday | March 16, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Wayne Chen: We have grown tremendously in the last few months, to the point where the demand is greater than what the company can now provide. - File

More than one million persons in rural Jamaica are now able to access wireless Internet service from Dekal Wireless Jamaica following the completion of phase two of the company's islandwide build out of their Super WiFi broadband network.

The move sees the Portland-based company blanketing all rural parishes with its wireless technology, and has now set its sight on establishing a presence in Kingston and St Andrew.

"We are the only game in town in many areas," Wayne Chen, a director and company secretary, told Wednesday Business. "We have grown tremendously in the last few months, to the point where the demand is greater than what the company can now provide."

Phase one of the network roll-out covered nine major towns, following its official launch in July 2010.

The David Lee-led firm then partnered with Altai Technologies from Hong Kong, China, to complete the second phase of its network build out, enabling users to access broadband speed of between four megabytes and 10 megabytes.

Altai's offering requires fewer units per square mile of coverage, and allows much higher data-transmission speed and larger user capacity at range than conventional WiFi products. WiFi, which stands for wireless fidelity, enables a device such as a personal computer, video-game console, smartphone or digital-audio player to communicate over a wireless signal.

Dekal promotes its superWiFi as being able to provide 'super high-speed connectivity - faster than 3G, GPRS and EDGE' and said it is comparable to ADSL speed and 4G. The technology does not require the use of a dongle, wiring or additional hardware.

Market strategy

Dekal's market strategy, which imitates mobile phone-credit consumption, includes selling 'single'-access wireless-broadband service using prepaid cards in various denominations. Subscribers can purchase access for one day or up to one month for $2,400 inclusive of GCT.

The company is currently addressing patches of blind spots in central Jamaica. That aside, Chen is confident that the network can stand up to scrutiny.

"It's a fully integrated network," he said. "Once you buy credit, you just surf along, whether you are on the south coast or the north coast, in the east or down in the west.

"Our technology does not require us new add-on or additional build out such as towers or laying of cables because our antenna coverage can go up quicker and cheaper to your existing device, whether it is a smartphone, laptop or a desktop computer."

But Chen, renowned in the retail food industry for his Super Plus chain of supermarkets, would not reveal how much his company has invested in building out the infrastructure to this point. All he was prepared to say is that "it's a substantial amount".

However, he had no reservation about the need for a greater presence in the Kingston metropolitan area. In fact, that is now the focus of the company, he insists. "The Kingston area is the big one that we are yet to cover. This is our priority going forward."

No timeline commitment

But Chen would not commit to a timeline to blanket the Kingston and St Andrew region, an area fully penetrated by Flow Jamaica on whose platform Dekal operates, and who themselves are fervently pushing to complete their islandwide build out by 2015.

As a result of Dekal's progress, distribution points for prepaid card sales have doubled from the 64 at launch date to more than 130. Plans are also in place for the expansion of the company's call-centre capacity.

Chen said they had no immediate plans to move from their Port Antonio head office, but "clearly, we will have to move some of our operations because there is need for some space for back-office operation, but there is no need for that right now." Moreover, he said, "We are not an office-oriented company, so at this point the focus is going where, and getting to the places that the service is needed, and that is what we are focused on."

Chen would neither commit to a timeline to complete its network in Kingston nor give a projection on the customer base expected over time.

"You will have to understand that we have been so focused on building out our network that we have not done the numbers," he said. "What I can say, definitively, is that if you turn on your WiFi in many parts of the country, you will find that Dekal Wireless is stronger than any other network and that has peaked the interest and curiosity of Internet users even more than ever."