Telecommunication trends

Gone are the days when talking to someone meant picking up a landline phone and dialling a number. Those desk- or wall-bound phones with their copper wire infrastructure have become the dinosaurs of the telecommunication age.
 
Telecoms have long now been concentrating on meeting public demand for mobile phones, wireless and optic fibre communications.
 
Technology and market research company Forrester Research estimates about 25 percent of businesses are starting to phase out desk phones, across the business educational, health, government and residential sectors.
 
Atanda La Forest, marketing executive with Digicel Cayman, said: “The traditional copper landline as a phone is dead. In 2007 US households, for the very first time, spent more on mobiles than traditional landlines. This has been the case in Cayman for some time and we expect this trend to continue for the future.”
She added that the amount of classified as “Mobile Only” in Cayman is steadily increasing.
 
Despite the availability of Voice Over Internet Protocol or VoIP online phone services such as Skype, which offers cheap international calls, Digicel says it has not seen a decline in its international traffic.
 
“Our international traffic is growing steadily month on month especially with the launch of our  international promotion- Stop the Clock.” Under that promotion, customers who talk for 10 minutes to international Digicel numbers, the USA and Canada, can talk free for the next 30 minutes on that call.
“VoIP is not able to guarantee a high call quality to justify the switching over from mobile, I think we’ve all had a bad experience on Skype at one point but that will change in the near future as telecom operators release their own VoIP products,” La Forest said.
 
Lime, formerly Cable and Wireless, offers a residential VoIP service called NetSpeak, which features different package options for unlimited calling to the UK and US, Europe, and Canada, as well as a bundled package for the Caribbean. It also has a business option called Virtual Office which enables travellers to take their business number anywhere in the world with them.
“As long as you have an Internet connection, your office phone is on your laptop or the physical handset can be transported if you desire as well.  This is a great feature, especially living in the hurricane belt as you can relocate to another country and it is seamless to anyone trying to contact you as they still dial the same number.  It has great functionality with services like Virtual Office Conferencing and Instant Messaging,” explained Julie Hutton, marketing manager at LIME.
 
She said the company had seen an increase in wireless modems as more people want the freedom to connect to the Internet from a variety of locations.
 
“Wireless is also used to connect to the Internet from your mobile phone.  The latest devices are extremely powerful and increasingly sophisticated touting larger screens so that it is easy to surf the web whilst on the move.  This provides access to many useful tools like Google maps, Facebook, telephone directory access, news and weather,” Hutton said.
 
However, despite the falloff in the use of landlines, LIME says customers still have an affinity for the POTS – plain old telephone service.
 
“While we are naturally seeing some changes in various segments of our fixed-line revenues as our consumer needs change and enabling technologies like the Internet allow a greater range of choices, we are satisfied that businesses and consumers alike continue to value the high quality of POTS that we provide. 
 
“In addition, larger businesses find that their functional office needs are better served with more typical fixed-line services with PBXs [private branch exchange], for example, and demand for our fixed line services remains relatively strong,” Hutton said.
 
Fibre optics are also coming to the fore now as copper wire disappears from the telecommunications landscape.
 
“Data delivered over copper wire infrastructure was prone to electromagnetic interference, data loss, and only offered limited bandwidth,” said Tom Kinstler of TeleCayman.
 
Kinstler said that most of the major financial centres in the world are linked by fibre optic networks, so businesses dealing with Cayman expect the country to have a similar infrastructure which can grow to accommodate the increasing need for high bandwidth.
 
Although TeleCayman already had a wireless network, it decided to build a fibre optic network based on feedback from businesses about their long term telecommunications needs. 
 
“Discussions suggested that there was a market for a second provider of non-wireless infrastructure servicing the banking, financial, legal and accounting services sectors, provided that it utilised the latest technology, was future proof and would be cost competitive.
 
“There is a compelling argument for the decision makers in these businesses to change provider, as they have been in long standing relationships with their current telecoms provider due to the lack of choice, but were uncomfortable with the outdated, less reliable technology,” he said.
 
TeleCayman’s new fibre optic project broke ground in December 2008.  Carrying out the work to lay conduit along trenches in George Town and on to Camana Bay at night and weekends, the system entered about 35 buildings, covering major businesses along the way.
 
“Once the conduit was laid, fibre cabling was then pulled through. TeleCayman has been progressively connecting the fibre cabling to its Network Operations Centre for the last two months,” Kinstler said.
 
The first customer was connected on 10 March, and TeleCayman was expecting all 35 buildings to be connected by the end of April. The company’s wireless customers in those buildings will be transitioned on to the fibre network at no charge.

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