Despite being relatively small by global standards, telecoms has become one of the Caribbean’s major growth industries. In particular, the region’s mobile sector has been witnessing significant expansion in recent years. To date this growth has largely been harnessed by Jamaican-based mobile provider Digicel; this company is predicted to continue to dominate the robust mobile sector growth during 2009/10.
This information and more comes out of BuddeComm’s annual publication "Caribbean – telecoms, mobile and broadband", which profiles the fixed-line, mobile and broadband markets on these small islands. The report contains overviews, analyses and detailed statistics of the Caribbean countries, including developments in emerging technologies such as wireless broadband and VoIP.
In contrast to the mobile market, the fixed-line segment remains stagnant. While in a handful of countries Cable & Wireless (C&W, which rebranded itself LIME in November 2008) still holds a monopoly in the fixed-line sector, a number of countries now have other operators offering fixed-line services at competitive prices.. Investment in infrastructure during 2009 is expected to increasingly trend towards wireless broadband access and associated IP services, such as VoIP.
Some of the other key highlights in the report are:
- the acrimonious relationship between Digicel and C&W in the Caribbean region looks to set to continue in 2009 with Digicel announcing in January its intention to sue C&W for defamation. Meanwhile its most significant claim against C&W, filed back in mid-2007, is yet to come before the British High Court;
- C&W has attempted to shrug off its negative image by rebranding its Caribbean unit in late 2008 as LIME (Landline, Internet, Mobile and Entertainment). C&W’s rebranding strategy forms part of an overall regional transformation plan valued at US$300 million;
- Digicel continued to be the fastest growing mobile company in the region, recording subscriber growth rates in the order of 40% during its 2008 financial year. Digicel also continued to expand into new markets with its launch in the British Virgin Islands in December 2008;
- in 2008 the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunication Organisations (CANTO) launched the Connect the Caribbean (CTC) initiative, aimed at mobilising resources towards the common goal of closing the digital divide in the region;
- GSM continues to be the mobile technology of choice in the Caribbean, with over 85% of mobile customers in Latin America and the Caribbean employing GSM mobile technology;
- growth during 2009 will continue to be fuelled by declining tariffs in the mobile and long-distance sector, and by increased deployment of broadband networks; and
- as mobile penetration rates are still relatively low, it is predicted that the mobile market will continue to enjoy solid subscriber and revenue growth rates during 2009. However, the world economic downturn is expected to constrain major investments during 2009 and 2010.