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$5-billion C&W upgrade

Posted by Dresonic on January 25, 2007

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Cable and Wireless International yesterday announced that it will pump J$5 billion into its Jamaica operations over the next year to boost its mobile, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and broadband services.

At the same time, the United Kingdom-based telecoms giant suggested it would mount a vigorous campaign for its customers to receive lower rates for calls made from landline to mobile phones.

“Our mobile competitor gets upwards of 85 per cent of every call charge just for delivering the call,” Harris Jones, chief executive officer of Cable & Wireless International, told journalists at a press briefing at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.

“We believe this is unfair,” added Chris Hetherington, president and CEO of Cable & Wireless Americas and the Caribbean. “The cost to consumers is too high, and landline users should no longer be forced to subsidise mobile networks in this way.”

Jones said that the rates for landline to mobile phones are high, not because of the company, but because of regulatory policy, while Hetherington argued that regulators have a duty to ensure that such call delivery charges are based only on cost.

“Rates in most Caribbean territories remain excessively high and way above cost,” he said, adding that regulators must act to enforce lower mobile termination rates immediately.
“We hope consumers join our call for lower charges, as they will benefit from cheaper telephone calls,” said Hetherington.

Both senior executives, along with Cable and Wireless International chairman Lord Robertson, arrived in the island on Monday for a meeting of the boards of Cable & Wireless plc and Cable & Wireless International, a move that Robertson said was “a very clear statement of our commitment to the Jamaican market and the people of Jamaica”.

“The fact that the Cable & Wireless board, for the first time since 1999, is meeting outside of the UK and in Jamaica is a very clear signal that we mean business,” added Lord Robertson.

Jones emphasised that the decision to invest the J$5-billion (just over US$76 million) in Cable & Wireless Jamaica was indicative of its aim to make the company the first choice for customers.

“We have evolved to become a competitor to be reckoned with, and we will continue to pass on to consumers the benefits of efficiencies achieved since liberalisation,” said Jones.

Cable & Wireless, he said, had invested more than US$650 million in the region in the past three years.

Data provided by the company at yesterday’s press briefing said that its total Caribbean revenue in the six months to September 30, 2006 stood at £289 million with 690,000 fixed line, 126,000 broadband and 935,000 mobile customers.

“Cable & Wireless Jamaica’s revenue for the same period was £103 million, an increase of nine per cent on the previous year,” the firm said in a news release.

Jamaica is part of the C&W International’s operations which comprises firms in 33 countries across the Caribbean, Panama, Macau, the Channel Islands and Monaco.

Yesterday, Rodney Davis, president and CEO of Cable & Wireless Jamaica, said customers will continue to see new initiatives this year, including increased speed in broadband at affordable and competitive prices.

Davis spoke, too, of the firm’s push to reduce landline to mobile phone rates, saying that they will continue to work with regulators, not only in Jamaica, but across the region until the rates are slashed.

“We have done a lot of work with regulators across the Caribbean and we have had some successes, but we are still pushing in Jamaica to see where this will work out, but this has been a long debate,” he said.

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