Statement

Ministry of Transportation Works and Utilities
Release Date:
Friday, 14 October 2016 - 12:16pm

STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND WORKS
HONOURABLE MARK VANTERPOOL
AT THE SECOND SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE
THIRD HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2016

10:00 A.M.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS UPDATE

Madam Speaker, this Minister for Communications and Works, is on record as being very vocal about the need for our telecommunications providers, to urgently upgrade the service they offer here in the Virgin Islands.

It is no secret that I am very unhappy, that we are not yet at the stage, where we already have access, to quality, high speed Internet and at affordable rates.

For a Territory that depends largely on Tourism and Financial Services for its economic viability, with visitors and clients from all over the world, it is inexcusable that our Internet and phone services have been less than desirable.

Madam Speaker, in the Virgin Islands, mobile phone penetration is at an all time high and broadband penetration has been steadily increasing. 

Although we have a relatively small population, our telecommunications needs are significant, as the health and growth of the very competitive Tourism and Financial Services sectors, thrive on access to globally competitive, reliable, high quality communications services. 

Madam Speaker, spectrum is a key ingredient to meeting rapidly increasing demand, for mobile data and voice services and supporting the provision of an efficient, resilient and widely available communications infrastructure in the Virgin Islands. 

So needless to say, I am extremely pleased today to provide this update to this Honourable House, on the successful efforts of the Ministry of Communications and Works and the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, to upgrade telecoms services in the British Virgin Islands.

Madam Speaker, we are all anticipating the delivery of high speed mobile broadband services using LTE technology, following the announcement by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) on 26th August, 2016, that it has now granted Frequency Authorizations to all three mobile operators in the Territory - CCT, Digicel and Flow.

LTE or Long Term Evolution, is the process that leads to achieving true 4G or Fourth Generation technology for high speed data, for phones and other mobile devices or data terminals.

Operators will complement their wireless high speed data capability with optical fibre.

Madam Speaker, this means that these operators can now provide more and super-fast broadband, to business and residential customers.

Customers in the Virgin Islands, will, in turn, be able to download files - whether documents, music or movies - at a significantly faster rate and without buffering.

LTE technology will also provide consumers with the ability to do video calls or video conferencing, from their mobile devices.

For the technically minded, Madam Speaker, this means that for Phase 1, we can expect speeds of up to 48-50 Mega Bits/sec, compared to the generally less than three (3) we get on a good day.

Later phases of the LTE technology roll out, that I am expecting to be available in the Territory, should deliver 100 Mega Bits/sec or more.

As you can imagine, Madam Speaker, this is highly anticipated and very good news for our Territory.

The implementation of this technology in the Virgin Islands, providing enterprises, consumers and citizens with better quality mobile broadband services, is in line with developments that have already occurred in other parts of the Caribbean, North America and Europe.

Madam Speaker, now that we have finally awarded spectrum, we expect that all carriers will implement and offer very high speed mobile broadband, to business and residential consumers, by early 2017.

The performance of these commitments has been guaranteed to the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, TRC, who will be closely monitoring the development of these new and enhanced networks.

As Minister for Communications and Works, I want to put the providers on notice, that I will be closely watching as well.

Madam Speaker, I will be monitoring closely, not only for the roll out to take place as scheduled, but to ensure that this super-fast broadband and LTE will be affordable to consumers and that the service will be reliable and indeed be of a high quality.

We are also expecting that the LTE service will be rolled out in Virgin Gorda and the other Sister Islands, on the same terms as on Tortola and super-fast broadband following not far behind.

Madam Speaker, I wish to thank the staff of the Ministry of Communications and Works, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, CCT, Digicel and Flow, for working together to bring us to this stage, in the process of awarding spectrum and ultimately improving telecommunications services in the Virgin Islands.

Thank you Madam Speaker.