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2006-08-22 13:50:35

BTC Casting Blame

GSM cellphone subscribers are receiving weak service because some private citizens are not allowing BTC cell site towers to be installed on their property.

This is a "major challenge" for the state-run telephone company, said Tellis Symonette, vice-president of Wireless and Internet Services at the Bahamas Telecommunications Company.

"Cell sites require property along the way," said Mr Symonette. "A lot of people really would like to have the coverage but don't want a tower in their back yard or near their home. That's a major problem in New Providence and Abaco," he said.

"As far as GSM, we had some difficulty acquiring property along the way for cell sites. It's important that the cell sites go where they were designed to go or as near to it as possible because if you don't do that you won't get the ultimate coverage that you really want to get. And that's a challenge for us."

BTC has had to work around the location issues, said Mr Symonette.

"When we want to install a network we design a network based on the cell sites," he explained. "Let's say we decide to design a network and we decide we need to put a cell site right here and if we can't acquire the property right where the cell site is supposed to go, according to the design, we have to move it to where we can find property where it can go." Mr Symonette said that was why the cell sites and GSM platform had to be constantly watched.

"That's why this must be monitored on an ongoing basis because we can design a network today and a month from now things could change," he said. "So we are always looking to expand the network. It's a thing that has to happen regularly because traffic patterns change. It's an ongoing exercise for us to really try to make the network as reliable and as efficient as it can be."

Still, despite the cell site setbacks, Mr Symonette maintained that BTC plans to go ahead with its GSM upgrade.

"We started a programme to expand the network earlier this year and we also plan to put more cell sites down," he said. "On an ongoing basis we have cell sites being installed [and] we have drive and performance tests being done.

"In some areas we don't have strong enough signals as we should have," he admitted "That's why we are installing cell sites to pick up those areas that are weak and to prevent dropped calls."

BTC plans to launch the GSM network in the Family Islands by the end of the year.

"We are about to launch the GSM network in Abaco," said Mr Symonette. "We have completed the network in Bimini and we're doing the final testing there. We have installed two cell cites in Exuma. By the end of this year in the November time frame [we plan] to have GSM deployed to the rest of the Family Islands because [GSM] is going to be our core network."

By: JASMIN BONIMY, The Nassau Guardian

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