LIME has announced that Cayman will be the first country in the Caribbean to boast a 4G mobile network. The new network is scheduled to be in place across Grand Cayman in September, with the Sister Islands following suit in early 2012.
This will make Cayman a leader in telecommunications in the region, delivering data speed of up to 21Mbps, far in excess of the 384kbps offered by the current EDGE data system.
The announcement was made at a gala event at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman on Tuesday, 17 May, which coincided with World Telecoms and Information Society Day.
The change promises to hold great potential for businesses and consumers alike, with the download of 1MB of data taking only 0.5 seconds. What this means to consumers is that watching videos or movies over the network will be smooth and free of hitches, generating a much richer user experience.
According to Tony Ritch, general manager of LIME Cayman Islands, the decision was made in response to requests from customers and businesses, with Cayman being selected as the first market in which the rollout would take place due to the unique nature of the local market. This will see Cayman, which has been lagging behind a number of other countries in the region when it came to the introduction of 3G services, leap ahead with the introduction of what Mr. Ritch described as “a future- proof network.”
“This is cutting-edge technology that will allow our customers total connectivity whilst on the go. Whether it’s for work or play, you will be connected. Imagine you are a realtor and want to show that new million-dollar home immediately to prospective clients. Well, now you can,” said Mr. Ritch.
Implementation of the network upgrade involves a significant investment by LIME, as it requires not only the upgrading of infrastructure on a local level, but also on a regional level to assure the capacity to carry the increased data the faster network is expected to generate.
According to Alan Dodds, commercial programmes director at LIME, the network upgrade effectively requires the replacement of the entire foundation of the network throughout the region, which will also mean that other countries will be ready for the upgrade to 4G once the decision is made that the markets are ripe for the change.
The network modification has also allowed for redundancies to be built into the network, allowing switching from one hub to another if regional infrastructure is damaged by a hurricane.
“We’re actually changing out the very heart of our network, the switching and the packet core networks in Jamaica and Barbados, and we’re adding resilience in there. We’re very prone to hurricanes in the Caribbean, so if one island goes down and we have infrastructure in that island we can lose connectivity, but what we’re building in is diversity and resilience so if we lose our switching or our capacity in one island we can switch over to another island. We don’t have that capability today, so being able to switch that capacity from one island to another island and maintain service is very crucial for our customers,” said Mr. Dodds.
According to Mr. Dodds one of the greatest challenges with the upgrade are to minimise any disruption of service while the upgrade is under way and also provide a satisfactory customer experience once the 4G network is up and running. This means providing sufficient capacity to cope with the increased demand for data that is expected once the network is up and running.
Although the network itself will be 4G, it is important to note that 3G-capable devices will be able to run at their full capacity on the new network, generating a much better user experience than possible in the current EDGE network. However, only 4G capable devices will be able to take full advantage of the new network.
“We picked a technology that has an evolution road map – with 3G, 4G there are over 3,000 devices that are compatible with the network that we’re building, so we’re creating a whole new experience for the consumer, for the businessman, for the person who’s on the go. It’s about productivity, it’s about being able to do things that you can only do fixed at your office desk or at your home, so now you can do that anywhere,” according to Mr. Dodds.
LIME is also working on finding international roaming partners who can provide 4G to users who travel often.