The Cayman Islands could get its first public WiFi hot spots within the next few months.
SALT Wireless Ltd. is setting up infrastructure with the eventual aim of building a ‘mesh public WiFi network’ across Grand Cayman.
That will mean anyone can login to the internet using their smartphone anywhere on the island.
The initial build-out will focus on Cricket Square, where the tech business is based.
George Town could be online before Christmas, while Seven Mile Beach has also been earmarked as one of the first public areas for the service.
Blair Lilford, founder of SALT Wireless, said the aim was for cruise shippers to be able to step off the dock and be able to get WiFi access on their smartphone or device. He said the details of the project were still being developed, but the business model could involve daily charges or ad support for the service.
“Public WiFi does not mean free WiFi,” he added. “We have to find a way to monetise it.”
The infrastructure is relatively simple – a network of heavy duty routers with a range of around 1,000 feet. Lilford said his company was working with landowners and with the government to get permission to place the routers on their land or buildings.
One concept being worked on is ‘smart street poles’. The company has worked with a Norwegian developer on solar light poles, built from re-purposed aircraft aluminium, that can house the modem.
He said these could be positioned on beach access paths to provide lighting as well as internet access for beachgoers.
SALT Wireless, which used the same technology to provide public WiFi at the Truman Bodden sports stadium for 4,000 people during the CARIFTA games earlier this year, is not seeking to be an internet service provider or to offer home services, says Lilford.
He said the company is basically buying and reselling bandwidth from established ISPs, like C3 and Flow.
He believes public WiFi is vital for Cayman’s tourism product and may also offer solutions for town planners. For example, he said, it would allow government to set up a smart parking app to allow motorists to check availability of spaces in George Town.
“We want Cayman to be the first smart island in the Caribbean,” he said.
SALT Wireless is part of the SALT Technology Group. Its main business is cloud computing.
The company recently obtained the first license to sell and operate Microsoft Azure Cloud Services in the region. Lilford said the service is being used by most major companies in the US and Europe because it offers secure storage that meets the data protection regimes of advanced jurisdictions.
He believes making it available in the Caribbean will allow some companies, who must meet those compliance frameworks, to remain here.
He said keeping up with technology and compliance advances was vital for Cayman to maintain its position as an international business centre.
“This island can’t continue to compete with the rest of the world if its technology doesn’t keep up,” he added.