Readers may have been made aware of WestTel’s infrastructure upgrades by the recent road signs along the Harquail bypass advising of men at work digging trenches, but perhaps not realised that that temporary moment of inconvenience will bring a whole new range of telecommunication benefits down the line. Business Editor, Lindsey Turnbull reports.
Newcomers to the Island might not have realised, but competition within Cayman’s telecommunications industry only came about in 2003 with the liberalisation of laws that paved the way for companies other than Cable & Wireless (now LIME) to compete for telephone and internet services.
Up until that point Cable & Wireless held the monopoly on this particular part of infrastructure, holding a firm grip on all aspects of service, from physical infrastructure to telephones and connectivity.
Since 2003, a variety of businesses have entered the Cayman market, one such firm being WestTel, which offers its business and residential customers telephone and internet services.
Taking their existing service to the next level, WestTel listened to its customers and at the end of 2007 and began planning to implement an island-wide network of fibre optic cabling which they believe will greatly enhance service for their customers.
Chief Executive Officer, Michael Edenholm says, “Our business customers were demanding greater bandwidth at reasonable rates and also an alternative to the incumbent so that they could meet compliance and disaster recovery requirements that need separate redundancy from existing cabling. In this way we can help businesses comply with global IT compliance procedures giving them diverse routes out of their physical building from which to send and receive data.”
Medical entities such as St Matthews Medical University require large bandwith to enable the students to send and receive large images, while other corporations were looking for improvements to their communications systems via video conferencing etc, requiring high speed internet connection obtained via the fibre optic cabling.
Thus began a multi-phased $15 million operation to lay fibre optic cabling the length and breadth of Grand Cayman, beginning at the end of 2008 with work up the Harquail bypass, down Camana Lane and up the West Bay Road as far as Governor’s Square. The second phase – slated for commencement this summer – will be George Town, at which point residential customers will also be enabled to access the new cabling.
Dale Dennis, VP of IT at Dart Realty (Cayman) Ltd says: “We are very pleased that WestTel continues to build core infrastructure which brings higher capacity and reliability to the Cayman Island’s telecommunications systems. We see this as a great benefit to Camana Bay and our tenants. This project demonstrates that WestTel are listening to their customers and press on with capital intensive work despite the global economic conditions. We applaud WestTel for their commitment.”
Calvin Morton, WestTel’s Vice President of Sales says that the new fibre optic infrastructure will provide residential customers with tremendous added value, as the firm will be combining forces with WestStar TV to provide a comprehensive package of television and telecommunications services: “By the beginning of 2010 we envisage that customers will be able to obtain exciting new packages that will provide such services as High Definition TV, TV on demand, pay per view, and so on, basically all the television offerings currently available in places such as the US and UK.”
Jeremy Elmas, VP with WestStar says that as sister companies WestStar and WestTel work closely on a daily basis, for example, the companies have combined customer service and billing operations in order to provide one point of contact for the services both companies offer.
He furthers, “We entered into detailed discussions exploring how both entities could take advantage of the increased bandwidth provided by a fibre network. The current plan targets large corporate clients first, followed by residential neighbourhoods. Since our customers are predominantly in the residential sector, we will participate more fully in the fibre programme once it extends into the residential areas. In the meantime we continue to work to improve the quality of our products, while expanding our product line through the introduction of additional channels and new products such as HDTV. The fibre system will allow us to offer some products which our existing system is not capable of delivering, including impulse pay-per-view and Video on Demand (VOD), as well as greatly expanding future options.”
Business customers can also enjoy the added benefit of cloud computing or virtualisation, which fibre optic infrastructure brings.
Edenholm explains, “Eventually businesses will pay for their computer power just as they would other utilities. The upgrade in technology means we can provide businesses with the power of existing servers but without the capacity. Instead of having to run and maintain costly computer servers, we can provide similar capabilities that sit in a virtual “cloud”, i.e. physically hosted elsewhere. This is especially attractive to businesses needing such capabilities for disaster recovery purposes.”
WestTel say that this consumer-driven project will at the end of the day bring more choice and higher quality to their customers, which can only be a good thing.