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RIGHT OF CENTRE: Connected Barbados

Phillip Goddard

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The communications network in Barbados is critical to the economic and social development of our country. It impacts on the way we do business, our ability to live here and work anywhere, as well as how we learn, conduct research and communicate with each other in an increasingly complex and interactive world.
For us to make use of and gain value from the explosion of new technology devices, it is critical that we have a robust, secure, ultra-broadband communications network to support business activities of the future.
There is no single solution in designing our network system, but of great importance would be the ultimate replacement of copper wire with fibre-optic cable to provide a so-called fibre to the home solution for the whole island.
This does not mean that we should neglect wireless solutions that allow flexibility and mobile access that are critical to many business and personal communication needs.
In this regard, the objective of the Entrepreneurial Foundation to establish an island wide WiFi network access is a good starting point. However, mobile carriers should be encouraged to upgrade their networks by implementing fourth-generation solutions that would support many new devices and applications that are essential to the development of new business processes.
Without investment in these broadband networks that would allow speeds of 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps, our capacity to innovate and improve the quality of service, speed of delivery and cost containment will be severely curtailed. Ultimately our international competitiveness in every field of economic activity and in the quality of life depends on the availability of ultra-broadband network capacity.
Despite the size of our market, the best way to achieve the delivery of network services is to create an increasingly competitive environment that provides the consumer with a variety of choices. One measure that would facilitate this is number portability, which essentially makes your telephone number your property rather than that of the issuing carrier.
This allows an individual to use it on any carrier and will give the consumer greater flexibility to use the carrier that offers the best service at any given time.
Also necessary is to allow local loop unbundling and indirect access as well as IP peering and Internet exchange. This will cut the cost of building competing networks, improve efficiencies and enhance security of internal national communications.
There has been much development in communications technology over the past decade and it is time to review the whole Telecommuni­ca­tions Act in light of recent experience and new innovations.
Given the fact that the cost of voice communication has now approached zero, the carriers must generate new revenue streams to support the investment in network architecture by providing value-added services.
In this regard the delivery of IPTV would be a valuable component of their business plans of the future.
Ultimately we should see the Caribbean as one network and develop a regional approach to legislation and regulation of the communications industry. The present fragmented approach adds a visible and invisible cost that the people of the region should not continue to bear.