Digicel bigwigs in closed talks with Cable and Wireless, Columbus execs in Port-of-Sain

cable-wireless-columbus_0Top executives of the region's three major telecommunications players hammered out their differences in a five-hour meeting hosted by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) in Port-of-Spain.
Telecom execs Denis O’Brien (Digicel), Phil Bentley (Cable and Wireless Communications) and Brendan Paddick (Columbus Communications) met to discuss the recently announced US$3 billion acquisition of Columbus Communications by Cable and Wireless.
“If this merger takes place, you will eliminate a very vibrant competitor in Columbus, and Cable and Wireless will basically own the market in T&T, Jamaica, Barbados, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada,” O’Brien said in a December 10 telephone interview, echoing the concerns of regional officials who fear that the proposed deal will result in the formation of a monopoly or near-monopoly in many Caribbaen markets for telephony, cable TV and broadband services.
“This is crazy stuff!” he said.

Digicel also wanted to buy Columbus, but valued it under, at 2 billion euros (US$2.49 billion). If Digicel had acquired Columbus, it would have also had a stranglehold on segments of the market in the region, a December 9 Irish Times article reported.
But asked if he would have been so outspoken for rigorous regulatory oversight in those circumstances, O’Brien said, “We would have kept Columbus and been head to head with Cable and Wireless and Lime.”
Instead, with the acquisition of Columbus by CWC, the new merged entity will control 100 per cent of fixed, broadband and submarine cables across the region, he claimed.
A Digicel-Columbus would have added competition to the Caribbean market, not eliminated it, O'Brien said.
“We would have had to go through the process with all the governments and regulators in the region. We would not have ducked that. If we buy a business, we have to get approval from the government. Simple as that.”
A high-level panel discussion with the three regional telecoms giants and local players GreenDot, DirectTV and TSTT took place behind closed doors in a forum hosted by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), a Caricom organisation that advises regional governments on approaches to telecommunications and technology issues.
At the top of the agenda for the CTU’s two-day meeting is the formulation of a regional response to the CWC-Columbus merger.Industry observers regard the CTU’s entry as a response to a region-wide concern over issues beyond the CWC-Columbus deal itself. Internet Strategist Bevil Wooding described the deal as “part of a wider trend of market consolidation taking place in the region’s telecommunications sector” and worldwide.
In the CTU forum were delegates from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Telecommunications Authority of T&T (Tatt) and the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (Ectel), Belize, Suriname, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, as well as other government and civil society organisations.

TTIX key to internet economy growth

Left to right, Ronald Mohammed, IPTV technologies manager, TSTT, Rehanna Jaleel, legal and regulatory manager, and Kurleigh Prescod, vice president network services, Columbus Communications, at the Internet Society's INET TT Forum, hosted by the Telecommunications Authority, Barataria, October 8 and 9, 2014, PHOTO: GERARD BEST The recent establishment of an Internet exchange point (IXP) in T&T is a necessary step in strengthening the country’s local Internet economy. But it is not enough, says Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist with Packet Clearing House (PCH).

“The launch of the local internet exchange point, TTIX, is definitely a positive step for internet users and in the development of the Trinidad and Tobago internet economy. However, the launch of an IX is not enough to guarantee its success,” Wooding said, speaking with the T&T Guardian after taking part in a panel discussion on IXPs as part of the Internet Society’s (ISOC) INET TT Forum, hosted by the Telecommunications Authority (TATT) on October 8 and 9.

“Now that the task of getting the local IX up and running is over, focus must shift immediately to the development of local applications and content to take advantage of the availability of a local exchange point.”

PCH has been involved the development of more than two-thirds of the world’s IXPs, and Wooding has been actively involved in IXP deployments across the region. To be truly successful, he said, exchange points have to have a clear plan for attracting local and international content providers and encouraging local Internet innovation to take advantage of the local exchange.

“Deliberate steps must now be taken to encourage local organisations to build local apps, create local content and deploy local services. A new set of local stakeholders must now be mobilised to steward the process of translating the promise of a local IX into the reality of a local Internet economy."

The four-member INET TT panel discussion highlighted the urgent need for significant upgrades to critical Internet infrastructure across the region. It included Internet Society (ISOC) representatives Jane Coffin and Christian O'Flaherty, who emphasised the importance of IXPs globally in improving the resilience, efficiency and security of local networks.

Setting up an IXP is not technically difficult and is not necessarily costly, Coffin said, but it does require collaboration and cooperation, at times among parties who are otherwise competing in the same market.

In the audience were dozens of regional and local technology experts gathered at the TATT office in Barataria for the two-day forum, which was also broadcast globally to a live streaming audience online.

Called INET TT, the event brought together private sector representatives, government officials, academic researchers and members of the local and international technical community. Present were delegates from the regional Internet registry for Latin America and the Caribbean (LACNIC), the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and the T&T Network Information Centre (TTNIC).

The fourth speaker on the INET TT panel on IXPs was Kurleigh Prescod, vice president of network services at Columbus Communications Trinidad. Prescod, who is the chairman of T&T’s recently launched IXP, shared perspectives from his personal experience of working with colleagues from competing ISPs to set up the local exchange point.

Called TTIX, the new IXP brought together seven of the country’s Internet service providers (ISPs): Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago, Digicel, Massy Communications, Open Telecom, Greendot, Lisa Communications and Flow.

“TTIX is a limited liability company formed by all existing Internet service providers in Trinidad and Tobago,” said Cris Seecharan, TATT CEO. He described the TTIX launch as “one of TATT’s major contributions to the country’s Internet landscape.”

The next step, he said, was to work with TTIX in seeking to establish a root server for the IXP.

Vashty Maharaj, an official from the ministry of science and technology delivering remarks on behalf of the minister, described IXPs as “a vital part of the Internet ecosystem.”

"TTIX is intended to make the exchange of local traffic more cost effective and contribute to the development of a robust domestic ICT sector,” she said.

The ministry applauded the ISPs for working with TATT to bring better and more affordable broadband Internet connectivity to all local Internet users.

“We want our people to experience all of the social and economic benefits of becoming active participants in the digital society and economy,” she said. The ministry applauded the ISPs for working with TATT to bring better and more affordable broadband Internet connectivity to all local Internet users.

There are over 350 IXPs around the world, of which nine are in the Caribbean. Among the territories in the region actively engaged in setting up IXPs are Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

T&T launches internet exchange point

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 4.34.49 PMT&T has become the latest Caribbean nation to launch an Internet exchange point (IXP). Called TTIX, the local IXP brings together seven of the country’s Internet service providers (ISPs). Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT), Digicel, Massy Communications, Open Telecom, Greendot, Lisa Communications and Flow have signed on to the local exchange point.

TTIX connects the ISPs to a special network switch that is physically located at the Fujitsu data center in Barataria.

The new exchange point will give the ISPs a cost-effective way to connect their customers to locally destined content and services.

The chairman of TTIX is Kurleigh Prescod of Columbus Communications, who described the launch as “a very significant milestone.”

Globally, IXPs have been shown to improve the resilience, efficiency and security of local networks.

Prescod said the new IXP will improve local Internet performance and “act as an incentive to attract content providers, such as Netflix, Akamai and Google, to establish a point of presence in Trinidad and Tobago.”

There are over 350 IXPs around the world. T&T became the ninth in the Caribbean, joining British Virgin Islands (BVIX), Curacao (AMS-IX), Dominica (DANIX), Grenada (GREX), Haiti, St Maarten (OCIX), St Lucia (SLIX) and the Dominican Republic.

Jean-Paul Dookie, executive vice president of government business for Fujitsu described the new exchange point as “an essential building block towards the development of the Trinidad and Tobago knowledge economy.”

The promise of a better local Internet experience, data security and commercial opportunities has been one of the greatest incentives to establishing IXPs across the Caribbean.

“Tremendous progress has been made in sensitizing the region to the importance of building out national Internet infrastructure. Now we are seeing the fruit,” said Bernadette Lewis, secretary general of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU).

Lewis described the TTIX launch as a direct result years of education, outreach and ongoing efforts by the CTU to promote the proliferation of IXPs in the Caribbean. The CTU’s collaboration with international organisations such as Packet Clearing House, the Internet Society (ISOC) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has played a key role in raising awareness of the importance of local IXPs in T&T and across the region.

Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are actively engaged in setting up IXPs.

From T&T Guardian

BrightPath Foundation brings TechLink to T&T

BrightPath founder and executive director Bevil Wooding. Photo courtesy: BrightPath Foundation Secondary school teachers and students will be immersed in a day of technology gadgets, spacemen and science experiments when the BrightPath TechLink program comes to T&T on September 27. “TechLink combines hands-on technology training with fun-filled creative activity, wrapped into a values-based learning experience that we believe can benefit participant for life,” BrightPath Foundation executive director Bevil Wooding told T&T Guardian. In the all-day event, students will use tablets, micro-computers, drones and robots to conduct special experiments that reinforce basic principles of science, technology, engineering and math. Since TechLink’s launch in Grenada in November 2013, over 400 persons, including educators, small business entrepreneurs, young people and parents in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Saint Lucia, have taken part in the initiative. But for the T&T edition, there is a twist. Capitalising on the interest in space experiments following NorthGate College’s success in the 2014 Cubes In Space experiment design global contest, TechLink Trinidad will focus on a suite of technology-based science experiments, under the theme “exploration: learning, developing, innovating.” “Together with our collaborative partner iDoodleSoftware, we will be hosting NASA astronaut Dr Roger Crouch in Trinidad for the TechLink event,” Wooding said. “The goal is to produce a context in which education is more engaging and interactive. Participants  will be get to be young explorers for the day. They will split into groups to tackle real-world problems and use technology and science to come up with solutions,” he said. Corporate sponsors include regional broadband-provider Columbus Communications and the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago. Rhea Yaw Ching, corporate vice president of sales and marketing at Columbus, said the partnership with BrightPath is part of Columbus’ wider commitment to investing in the communities it serves. “As more affordable high-speed Internet access becomes a reality across the region, Columbus is actively looking for opportunities to help users at every level understand how to make the most of it.” TechLink Trinidad will include an Educators Forum, designed to equip secondary school teachers with know-how and practical tools to use technology in the classroom. “While the students enjoy the chance to go deep into digital content creation, teachers will learn new and better ways to use technology in the nation’s classroom. This is technology meeting the real world. The goal here is to give a real sense of the possibility of technology being applied to Caribbean education," Wooding said. TechLink Trinidad will be held at the Cipriani College of Labour and Cooperative Studies on September 27.