NOBLE Wi-Fi meets roadblocks
Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer
NOBLE Wi-Fi Limited, a private Jamaican registered corporation, has been trying to establish operations in Jamaica to provide state-of-the-art wireless data connectivity for more than one year. The process that started in April last year, is yet to be completed and the operators have been trying to delve through a mountain of red tape to begin operations.
According to Sherfea Malcolm, regional manager at NOBLE Wi-Fi Limited, there are no guidelines to getting a business started in Jamaica. "There is no defined process to getting a business started. If you are lucky enough to have another overseas investor already operating here, you can get advice from them. The process is not encouraging for anyone at all," Malcolm said.
Provide data connectivity for roaming
NOBLE Wi-Fi Limited intends to provide data connectivity for travellers to Jamaica who are currently hampered by expensive cellular data roaming charges. NOBLE plans to create a quality, easily accessible, safe and reliable service experience to access the Internet by implementing affordable, easily pre-paid direct billing access to its Wi-Fi infrastructure, eliminating data roaming charges. They also intend to provide wireless coverage, allowing customers to move between all areas serviced for one fee. But there are hurdles to conquer.
"We have to get permission to erect our towers. It is not a channel that you can bypass. We have met with the Office of Utility Regulations (OUR) three times already so, hopefully, this process will be complete soon," Malcolm said.
NOBLE Wi-Fi Limited is a medium-sized business that currently employs a team of some 12 persons in Jamaica but has not yet begun to see returns. According to Ryan Fernandez, director of NOBLE Wi-Fi Limited, it is an opportunity for the company to do something good in the country and give back to the community.
"The processes are so onerous and take so much time. Talking to other business people who have come here and left, sometimes you go into the bank to do something and you have to follow a process, but you can never find who created that process and why it was done. We have encountered a lot of that," Fernandez said.
Fernandez lamented that even sending money or equipment to the country is a huge endeavour and tends to take much longer than it should. "I might send a US$1,000 package to the country and they want US$900 to clear it. It becomes cost-prohibitive. I am sending hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment here and they are doubling the value by the time it lands here," he said.
Malcolm and Fernandez indicated that if business is not up by yearend, they will be in deep financial woes. Once approval is granted, they will begin operations in Montego Bay and expand to Negril soon after, followed by Ocho Rios and Falmouth.