There are gangs of young people on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica with three and four cell phones strapped to their belts. Eighty percent of the Jamaican population has cell phones now. Only nine percent had phones in 2001.
Denis O’Brien is the founder and majority shareholder of Kingston-based Digicel Group. O’Brien is the twelfth richest man in Ireland. He spent $600 million in mobile licenses to provide phone service to Aruba, Barbados, the Cayman Islands, Curacao, the Grenadines, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent.
Jamaica, known for reggae, rum, and scotch bonnet peppers, is O’Brien’s forward base of attack against competitor Cable & Wireless (C&W). C&W has monopolized the British Caribbean for 130 years.
O’Brien spent $300 million in 2001 to build his Jamaican phone network. It has 680 base stations over the 151 mile-long island. O’Brien’s customer base grew to 100,000 in the first three months. In 2009, it boasted over one million customers.
Jamaica has a fully digital telephone communication system with a mobile penetration of over 95%. The country’s three mobile operators – Cable and Wireless (marketed as LIME – Landline, Internet, Mobile and Entertainment), Digicel, and Oceanic Digital (operating as MiPhone and now known as Claro since late 2008) – have spent millions in network upgrade and expansion. Both Digicel and Oceanic Digital were granted licenses in 2001 to operate mobile services in the newly liberalized telecom market that had once been the sole domain of the incumbent Cable and Wireless monopoly. Digicel opted for the more widely used GSM wireless system, while Oceanic opted for the CDMA standard. Cable and Wireless, which had begun with TDMA standard, subsequently upgraded to GSM, and currently utilizes both standards on its network.
With wireless usage increasing, landlines supplied by Cable and Wireless have declined from just over half a million to roughly about three hundred thousand as of 2006. In a bid to grab more market share, Cable and Wireless recently launched a new land line service called HomeFone Prepaid that would allow customers to pay for minutes they use rather than pay a set monthly fee for service, much like prepaid wireless service.
A new entrant to the Jamaican communications market, Flow Jamaica, recently laid a new submarine cable connecting Jamaica to the United States. This new cable increases the total number of submarine cables connecting Jamaica to the rest of the world to four.
Two more licenses were auctioned by the Jamaican government to provide mobile services on the island, including one that was previously owned by AT&T Wireless but never utilized, and one new license.
Jamaica is 1,184.83 kilometers (736.22 miles) from Florida. Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, 234 kilometers (145 mi) in length and as much as 80 kilometers (50 mi) in width, amounting to 11,100 square kilometers (4,300 sq mi). It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about 145 kilometers (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometers (119 mi) west of Hispaniola, the island harboring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It’s indigenous Arawakan-speaking Taíno inhabitants named the island Xaymaca, meaning the “Land of Wood and Water”, or the “Land of Springs”.
Tourism, mining, and service industries are Jamaica’s strengths. Urban crime and public policy are her weaknesses. Jamaica depends on petroleum imports to satisfy its national energy needs.
“Don’t Worry–Be Chatty.” Forbes, 25 April 2005.
Jamaica, “Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, Wikepedia Foundation, Inc.