Shared VoIP Platform Gives Operators More Leverage

A pan-Caribbean internet telephony system has been inaugurated by the CaribCom X partnership. It forms part of a broader initiative to provide smaller fixed-line and mobile operators with low-cost next-generation services for consumer and business users across the region. The initiative leverages infrastructure owned by 10 regional carriers that, when combined, will offer economies of scale and connectivity options unavailable when working alone. The new platform will help boost the profiles and profitability of many independent operators in the region, but BMI believes the lack of last mile fixed and mobile broadband infrastructure will remain a major barrier to widespread adoption.

The new VoIP exchange platform was designed and installed by US-based systems integrator Eastwind Communications . The CaribCom X partnership - led by Dauphin Telecom - is funded by the European agency Interreg Caraibes IV . T he latter is aimed at including the region's non-French territories in Europe-funded communications dev elopment projects. As such, participating carriers hail from Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Jamaica, Martinique, St Bathelemy, St Kitts & Nevis, St Marten, Sint Maarten and St Vincent.

Low-Cost Drives Demand For VoIP
VoIP/IP Telephony Customers By Type (mn)

Like St Martin-based Dauphin Telecom (a licensed provider of local and international teleph ony services as well as cellular telephony services) , all of the participating carriers hail from the independent sector and thus lack the scale and financial resources enjoyed by their rivals in the incumbent market. They are often heavily reliant on the private sector for funding, given the difficulties they face in marketing their services to consumers reluctant to move away legacy products supplied by incumbents. Such operators are also highly dependent on costly access to last-mile, long-distance and international infrastructure owned by the incumbents. By pooling their resources, the carriers can enter into negotiations with incumbents from a stronger position and cross-sell their various products to a wider customer base.

BMI's Caribbean telecommunications database shows fixed telephony, broadband and mobile telephony availability varies markedly from country to country across the region. Adoption of advanced, efficient and affordable services tends to be held back where there is a paucity of modern infrastructure and where incumbents are either underfunded or have little incentive to modernise. While we welcome the launch of the new pan-Caribbean VoIP platform, and the cost savings promised by the least cost routing technology on which it is based, we caution that limited availability of IP-based last-mile infrastructure and digital devices will continue to hold back its adoption in many markets.

The cost benefits offered by VoIP are particularly compelling in all markets. Cisco Systems believes residential fixed-line VoIP customers totalled 613mn globally at the end of 2012 and forecasts this number to grow to 928mn by the end of 2016. Meanwhile, business IP telephony customer numbers are expected to grow from 152mn in 2012 to 270mn by 2016.


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