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Features - July 2006

 

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Staying well connected

Staying well connected

BlackBerrys and expanded services keep you in touch

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The Bahamas Investor Magazine
July 1, 2006
July 1, 2006
Nicole Hesse

It may surprise you to know that The Bahamas, an island nation renowned for sandy beaches and dreamy seascapes, is in the midst of a technological metamorphosis.

While it still retains its laid-back island flavour, The Bahamas’ five million annual visitors expect to be greeted by up-to-date technology that will enable them to conduct business and keep in touch with affairs back home during their stay.

And driven by increasing competition and the anticipated privatization of the state-owned provider, the domestic telecom industry is answering their call. The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) has partnered with Canadian-based Research In Motion (RIM) to bring the BlackBerry wireless handheld device to The Bahamas. BTC is also aggressively pursuing the introduction of voice-over-Internet (VOIP) technology for its domestic customers.

In 2005, BTC announced it would partner with US-based Tyco Telecommunications in a plan to provide high-speed Internet and GSM cellular service to the country’s 14 major Out Islands in the future, linking them to New Providence through an underwater fibre-optic cable network. Such connectivity is increasingly in demand as development flourishes and sales of second homes are on the rise in the country’s more remote islands.

Meanwhile, major telecom competitor IndiGO Networks, the only licensed, private-voice telephony provider in The Bahamas, has invested $6 million into infrastructure and developing services in its licensed service area of New Providence, Grand Bahama and Abaco, with another $10 million anticipated over the next few years. The company has succeeded in building a fixed wireless network that currently covers 54 per cent of its service area, with plans to eventually cover at least 90 per cent.

President Paul Hutton-Ashkenny says that since the company’s launch in September 2004, IndiGO has driven down long-distance rates by as much as 80 per cent for businesses and consumers. It’s all part of a wave of new competition resulting in more reliable and far-reaching service at a lower cost.

IndiGO, which has concentrated on business and prepaid services in New Providence and Freeport, is now testing residential services in New Providence. “By year’s end, we also anticipate the introduction of residential services in Grand Bahama, and the launch of our complete range of telecommunications services throughout the islands of Abaco,” Hutton-Ashkenny adds.

As for the future, he says, there are a number of “next big thing” products and services to watch for, including WiMAX, the next generation of wireless Internet service, which is already being introduced in areas of Canada, Colombia and South Korea.

“You can think of WiMAX as the wireless network of the future,” Hutton-Ashkenny says. Unlike today’s localized Wi-Fi hotspots that cover small areas, WiMAX will cover three to five miles, and overlap like a cellular network. Adoption of the technology by major industry players such as Intel is likely to assure its future in consumer devices, “meaning that network access will be available anywhere, from any device,” Hutton-Ashkenny says.

“IndiGO’s network will be fully WiMAX compliant, promising those resident in The Bahamas access to the full gamut of WiMAX possibilities as the technology evolves.”

It’s one of many advances that promises to put The Bahamas on the map for tech-savvy business and leisure travellers alike.

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