Faster networks will be catalyst for change

How will 4G change the business landscape in the Cayman Islands? LIME has the answer. 

LIME has announced that it will be launching a 4G network on Grand Cayman in September. Although the exponential increase in mobile data speed that this will bring about has generated much excitement among consumers, what are the potential advantages of this for business? 

As a technology, 4G will represent a quantum leap forward in the speed of mobile data in Cayman. The HSPA+ network that LIME is installing will bring data speeds of up to 21Mbps, compared to the peak data rate of the current EDGE network that is around 384kbps. This means the peak data rate on the new network will be some 60 times faster than is currently available. 

In order to bring about this change, LIME had to replace the heart of its network, a very expensive investment, but one that according to Alan Dodds, commercial programmes director at LIME, lays the groundwork for a network that will be able to evolve as demand grows. 

“It’s very dependent on our connection off island into the US which is where we connect. So we’ve been spending an awful lot of money upgrading and expanding those pipes. Before 4G is rolled onto any island, we’ve done a calculation, a forecast of the number of gigabytes per month that we will need and how that will grow and we’ve started to back the pipes up for that,” he says. 

“It is a fairly straight forward evolution path, so as the business case justifies to go up we can move very easily from 21Mbps to 42Mbps to much higher speeds. We will be able to do that without ripping out the heart of the network again and restarting.” 

However, when it comes to how companies will use this vehicle, Dodds believes that much of this will be up to the businesses themselves. 

“We will provide an enabler, a platform, and we will provide some services, but I think our customers will become very creative in how they exploit and use our technology. Now obviously we will work with them to do that. We have very strong relationships with the suppliers out there so we can do that,” he says. 

Although consumers are already champing at the bit when it comes to 4G, it is expected that businesses may be somewhat slower to embrace the full potential of the technology, according to Anthony Ritch, general manager of LIME Cayman Islands. 

“I say it is going to take some time because I think it’s going to take time for businesses to start to see how they can actually capitalise on this technology but also to develop or invest in the tools with which they’ll be able to derive that capability,” he says. 

One of the prime opportunities presented by the new network is the ability to make better use of the cloud. 

“There has been a lot of talk for many years about the cloud as opposed to having computers and servers at your office. We’ve never really been able to exploit that because we have to be able to send big files up and down across very narrow bandwidth and it has not been very practical but I think that really changes now, it’s a paradigm shift, and an opportunity for your small business owner,” says Dodds.  

He said that the need for small business owners to maintain an IT infrastructure at their offices, as well as the need for dual backup to help prevent data loss in the case of a disaster, could soon be going the way of the rotary dial telephone. 

“You can actually have a reliable cloud and pass your data into the cloud. It’s backed up, it’s in a secure environment. I think that’s a very important paradigm shift whereby you can minimise your infrastructure but still have the quality, reliability and resilience that any business is going to need,” he says. 

Due to the backward compatibility of the network, those with 3G enabled devices will see an immediate change in their mobile data experience the day the 4G network comes on line. 

“People need not feel too concerned about getting rid of their 3G Blackberry for the next 4G thing that’s coming out, they’re still going to get a good experience, but people that it’s really important to, and they want the absolute maximum experience then they can get a 4G,” says Dodds. 

The speed of the network, as well as the emergence of powerful new tablet devices has the potential to reshape business over time, as users will be able to receive big files quickly and work on them wherever they are. However, according to Ritch, it may take some adjustment for business to embrace the possibilities. 

“It is for businesses to evolve, and it will take some time. To actually get to that stage where you can appreciate that just because the office isn’t full and someone isn’t tethered to their desk doesn’t mean they’re not productive, that they can’t deliver a strong day, week or month of performance. It’s going to change; it has to change,” he says. 

“If it’s just faster e-mail, faster browsing, faster downloads of files on the consumer side, that’s great to have, but if it starts to deliver real productivity gains and utility for businesses, that is ultimately where I want to see Cayman position itself through technology.” 

Another important element to the introduction of the new network is the message it sends to potential investors that Cayman boasts a truly First World infrastructure that can support the needs of their business. 

“If you’re a business, let’s say a trust company, and you’re based in Hong Kong, and you’re looking to open an office in the Caribbean and you look across you can really pick and choose where you want to go. Infrastructure is very, very important to these people. So they can look around and see there are various islands they can pick and choose from, but this will make Cayman leader of the pack in offering them very first world technology. This is something we can leverage,” says Dodds. 

Faster networks

Alan Dodds and Anthony Ritch of LIME. – Photo: Eugene Bonthuys