Telecommunication equipment imports are up by more than $10 million over the past five years, led by investments to roll out fiber Internet and television connections, according to foreign trade data from the Economics and Statistics Office.
Fiber Internet connections are faster than traditional broadband connections for homes or offices and carry a lot more data at once. Providers in Grand Cayman are required, under agreement with government, to expand their fiber networks across the island in the coming years.
ESO senior statistician Julietta Beaupierre said that since Cayman has to import essentially everything, the foreign trade balance report essentially “gives an indication of what is happening in the economy.” Total imports have increased over the past two years, growing by more than 5 percent in 2014. Telecommunications equipment made up about 2 percent of all imports last year.
“When you see an increase,” Ms. Beaupierre said, “that definitely indicates something is happening in the economy.”
Telecommunications companies Logic, LIME and C3 are competing to expand fiber networks across Grand Cayman.
Logic signed an agreement with government in 2012 to install island-wide fiber and expects to complete the network by 2017. The company bought Weststar last year and, with it, expanded the reach of its network to Bodden Town and East End.
LIME already has most customers on Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands wired for fiber.
C3, part of Hurley’s Entertainment, is the newest and smallest player in the Internet and TV market, beginning its network in George Town and planning to expand from there.
CEO of C3, Randy Merren, said fiber is a large part of his company’s investment, but receivers to install in customers’ homes and offices are also “significant drivers to our overall capital expenditures.”
In an earlier interview with the Cayman Compass, LIME’s Julie Hutton said fiber is a major investment, especially in such a small market. “We’re building infrastructure that will be in use for years,” she said.
Data from the Cayman Islands Information and Communications Technology Authority shows that over the past five years fixed broadband connections have grown by 20 percent, hitting a new record last year of about 23,500. The number of fast Internet connects, and the per capita rate of connections per person has increased each year since the ICTA began counting in 2008.
Russell Richardson, general counsel of the ICTA, said, “The demand for better broadband connectivity and access to faster and faster broadband speeds in the Cayman Islands, prompted by more people owning Internet-enabled electronic devices, will only increase.”
He pointed to a recent report from telecom regulators in the United Kingdom predicting sharp growth in what’s been called “the Internet of Things.” He said, “It is expected that globally up to 50 billion ‘smart’ devices, ranging from cars and parking meters to coffee machines and even combine harvesters could be connected to the Internet by 2020.”