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2004-11-03 17:10:12

Three Firms Seek Investment In Jamaica Fibreoptic Line

One model submitted will require an investment of up to US$50 million to create a dual-routing redundant cable system from Jamaica to the Bahamas.

Three firms have applied to the government for licence to install fibreoptic cables from Jamaica to the United States that will require investment of between US$30 million (J$1.86 billion) and US$50 million (J$3.1 billion).

The government may grant up to two of the companies licence, as part of its plan to reduce the cost of Internet and other data services to consumers while creating an economic environment that would allow the investors to make a return on their capital.

Only Cable & Wireless Jamaica now has a fibreoptic infrastructure that links Jamaica with the rest of the world.

The applicants are:

* Digicel Jamaica Ltd

*Jamaica Network Access Point (JNAP)

* Fibralink - a partnership of Caribbean Crossing and Merit Communications Ltd.

The closing date for application was Monday.

The industry regulatory body - the Office of Utilities Regulation - has secured the services of an American consulting firm, TG Soja LRd, to assist the government in assessing the bids. A decision is expected by December.

The OUR said that two other companies that had earlier expressed interest in securing licence did not apply-New World Network, and Sun Ltd (the latter not to be confused with Sun Microsystems).

Each applicant is required to submit an application which is placed in the public domain for scrutiny by any interested person.

. The model submitted by Fibralink will require an investment of up to US$50 million to create a dual-routing redundant cable system from Jamaica to the Bahamas. It would be a privately-held cable that would be resold to other telecommunications companies and Internet service providers (ISP).

.Under JNAP's plan, a US$32 million cable would be laid down from Jamaica to Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico and into Miami, USA. Some 30 telecoms will own the line, each buying space, and in turn reselling it to ISPs.

.Digicel plans to build a US$30 million line from Jamaica to Dominican Republic linking into Florida. It would own the fibreline and resell space to telecoms and ISPs.

At the submission of its proposal to the OUR at its New Kingston office on Monday, Digicel created a public spectacle with the use of a motorcade equipped with loud speaker and boom box.

Digicel's application document was secured into three fancy glass tool boxes, each decked with flashing lights on top.

The other two bids were done quietly.

Currently, most ISPs carry their Internet and data traffic on the single line which is controlled by Cable & Wireless Jamaica. The government argues that more fibre lines will increase competition, thus driving down prices.

by Steven Jackson, The Jamaica Observer

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