As broadband providers seek to step up speed and service, Flow’s Caribbean president, Garfield Sinclair, has his eye on renovating island infrastructure.
He considers the Cayman Islands one of his top Caribbean markets, alongside Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad. Despite the islands’ small population, their GDP has made them a priority for upgrading high-speed, LTE service.
“I’ve included Cayman in the big markets. We like to think of Cayman as the Monaco of the Caribbean,” he said during a trip to Grand Cayman.
“You contribute well above your weight in GDP per capita and one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world. Obviously, there is a big sect of offshore professionals and a financial services sector that punches well above its weight from a size standpoint.”
Sinclair stepped into his current position in January during a major transition period for the company. Cable & Wireless Communications, traded locally as Flow, was acquired by one of the world’s largest broadband providers, Liberty Global, in May 2016.
Sinclair said the purchase vastly expanded CWC’s procurement power, allowing the company to step up wireless equipment updates and expand cable programming.
“The first set of influences you felt was in the planning process. Liberty spends a great deal of time on establishing three and five-year plans,” Sinclair said.
While telecommunications can change rapidly, Sinclair said, Liberty’s robust planning process should result in better, English-language programming for the Caribbean.
Regarding mobile connectivity, Sinclair said Cayman is a main priority area for improved LTE service.
“Ultimately we want the investment to be supported by the capability on the island to repay that investment as we can’t have an LTE network that’s Caribbean wide yet,” he said.
“Certainly where it’s warranted, that’s where we’re doing it. Cayman obviously warrants an LTE network mobile-wise so that’s what we’re doing here.”
Rather than abandon old copper infrastructure for fiber, Sinclair said Flow is hoping to salvage and upgrade its copper network. Fiber technology has been implemented in Cayman to complement copper lines, but not to replace them, he said.
The company is implementing multiservice access nodes (MSAN) to boost the speed of its copper network and enable better streaming service. Sinclair estimated some areas could reach speeds of 50 megabits to 100 megabits per second.
“There was a thought that copper was dead or dying and you were not going to be able to utilize it very much in the future, but there are very exciting things happening right now with technology. One of them is this MSAN, VDSL2 technology,” Sinclair said.
“Essentially it enables us to give extended life to the copper network and primarily allows for tremendous broadband speeds for the copper network.”
As more people access internet through their cellphones, Sinclair said, broadband connectivity has grown in importance.
“Mobile infrastructure is getting even more robust with the advent of what we have here in Cayman, which is LTE. LTE is very fast, very reliable and in its own first-world jurisdictions, you are seeing fixed broadband capacity being delivered over LTE networks,” he said.
Regarding worldwide staff cuts by Digicel, Sinclair said he is not worried about the implications for Flow.
“When I see activity like that happening at Digicel, to me it just signals the need to constantly fine-tune your operating model for what is an invariably changing landscape, literally day to day and week to week,” he said.
“I don’t take any comfort from or get too worried about operating model changes. Those guys know what they’re doing, so I’ll leave them alone to do what they’re doing. We’re focused on making sure we’re fit for purpose and to the extent we can, future proof our operating model.”