Richard Browne, Business Reporter
Jamaica rates very poorly both internationally and regionally on broadband penetration for both mobile and fixed Internet access, according to a recent international study.
For mobile broadband penetration, Jamaica ranks 123 out of 194 countries, with only 1.6 people per 100 having access to the service. This places Jamaica between Mozambique and Angola and well below the world average of 22.1
When it comes to fixed broadband penetration, Jamaica fares a little better, but still falls well below the world average and lags behind almost all of its regional neighbours. Jamaica has 4.1 inhabitants per 100 with fixed broadband, giving it a rank of 95. This places it just below the Dominican Republic and a couple places above Guyana at 98. The world average is 9.1 people per 100.
The results are contained in the September 2013 report for the Broadband Commission for Digital Development (BCDD), an organisation launched by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in 2010.
The report takes into consideration free wi-fi access which is available from a number of Jamaican businesses.
One such business is F+B, a restaurant at Swiss Stores in downtown Kingston which caters largely to bankers, lawyers and other professionals. "Free Wi-Fi is a necessity these days, a must," said Ueli Bangeuter, chief executive officer (CEO) of F+B. "We have two systems running just in case," he added.
At Megamart wholeale club, customers have access to the Internet for free near food courts in its four retail stores across the island. "In all our food courts we offer free Wi-Fi," said Simone McFarlane.
Internet rates in Jamaica start at J$100 for two days from telecommunications provider Digicel, and J$50 per day from LIME. But as low as these rates may be, they are not free to the subscriber.
Globally, Singapore ranks first for mobile broadband access, with 123.3 out of 100 residents able to log on with their mobile devices. The United States ranks ninth with 74.7 out of 100, the United Kingdom at 14 with 72 people, and Canada at 32 with 50 per 100 people.
Barbados ranks highest in the Caribbean with 36.4 people out of 100 having access to mobile broadband, giving it a ranking of 45. Antigua ranks 72 with 19.9 people and the Dominican Republic at 79 with 15.4 people per 100.
Jamaica is performing better than some other Caribbean countries, however, with Trinidad a couple places lower at 126 with only 1.5 people per 100.
Haiti, a market dominated by local telecommunications firm Digicel, ranks 139 with only 0.2 people per 100. But there are several other Caribbean countries with even lower rankings such as Cuba (160), Dominica (161), St Kitts (163), St Lucia (164), Guyana (169) and St Vincent at (170) at the bottom of the list in the region.
Top ranked for fixed broadband penetration is Switzerland with a rate of 41.9 people per 100. The United States ranks 20 with 28 people. Barbados is highest ranked in the Caribbean with 23.8 people per 100, giving it a rank of 32.
Also ranking above Jamaica are St Lucia (51), Grenada (53), Trinidad (54), St Vincent (58) and Dominica (57), all of which ranked above the world average. Suriname (84) and Antigua (85) are below average, but rank higher than Jamaica. Cuba ranks extremely low at 160.