Flow has announced that it will roll out fibre internet availability across all of Grand Cayman and most of the Sister Islands.
This will enable broadband speeds of over 1,000 Mbp/s – more than 100 times faster than what is available over traditional copper or newer wireless solutions. Flow announced the rollout at a press conference Monday.
The company said it already had fibre connectivity in all of Grand Cayman’s districts, but it will fill in the remaining pockets where the service has until now not been available. The company will also significantly increase fibre coverage in the Sister Islands.
Flow is currently building out the fibre network in West Bay and Spotts before expanding into other districts. All areas are outfitted with fibre-to-the-home technology and customers will be migrated from the existing copper network onto the new fibre networks without incurring any conversion costs.
Flow country manager Robert Mayo-Smith said the company is continually upgrading its network and spent $5 million on enhancements last year alone. But the fibre roll-out is not just about financial investments, he said.
“In the first four months of the year, we have added 10 new members including local customer care agents and technicians,” Mayo-Smith said. “We will add another 15 people predominantly in our technical team and we were very encouraged by the over 200 applications received for these roles at our recently conducted career fair.”
The company aims to complete the fibre network expansion within the next 12 months. But this will not only depend on having the necessary resources, in terms of new staff and the right equipment. Another element outside of Flow’s control is having access to the electricity poles that carry fibre cables. These are owned by Data Link, a subsidiary of electricity provider CUC.
“We have shared this vision with CUC and are hopeful they will partner with us by granting the necessary access to build out the new fibre network as quickly as possible,” Mayo-Smith said.
As internet providers have first focussed on Cayman’s more populous, and more lucrative, areas, politicians and utility regulator OfReg have long called for island-wide fibre internet connectivity, especially for underserved areas in East End, North Side and the Sister Islands.
Mayo-Smith said he feels Flow has always had a “reasonably paced” schedule for its fibre rollout, but the COVID-19 pandemic had shown a much broader-based reliance on faster internet in the community.
“That was really the key,” he said, which prompted the company “to think about how we can accelerate this faster”.
He said the ongoing fibre rollout into new communities also supported the company’s social corporate responsibility initiatives.
Flow provides broadband internet to primary and secondary schools free of charge and has partnered with the regulator OfReg to offer free WiFi hotspot access at government community centres.
Flow has also provided free access to its online learning platform, Flow Study, for a limited period, giving students an additional resource to access past papers, tutorials, and online classes.
Daniel Tathum, Flow’s commercial director, said together with the fibre-to-the-home network expansion, the company will also focus on improving customer services. He said the service will provide new opportunities for the small business and entrepreneurial sector, including new technology-dependent business start-ups that emerged during the lockdown last year.
Tathum noted that internet fibre technology is scalable and will be able to support the future evolution of the internet.