Chaos continues in a regulated telecommunications market in barbados barbados underground electricity lesson plans year 6

It seems like yesterday Barbadians rejoiced at the news the government would liberalize the telecommunications sector as part of WTO obligation. Barbados was an early signatory to General Agreement on Trade in Service (GATS) and the Telecommunications Reference Paper in 2000. Why did Barbadians rejoice? Hitherto Barbadians would have felt they were being shafted by Cable and Wireless, the London-based telecommunications monopoly which has operated in the region since the twentieth century. According to C&W’s 2005 Annual Report the Caribbean region ranks second after the UK in profits generated(United Kingdom turnover: £1,602 million, Caribbean turnover: £550 million). The decision to liberalize Barbados telecommunications market would have raised expectations that the onslaught of competition would have driven telecommunications costs down, welcome news in a service-based economy seeking to be competitive.

Several years post-liberalization of the telecommunications market and Barbadians are yet to benefit significantly, especially in three key areas. In the fixed line market it has been business as usual for LIME formerly C&W. In the mobile market we have seen a new entrant Digicel which has created some competition for LIME by forcing the price of handsets and packages down, as a result we have seen a deeper penetration of the Barbados mobile phone market. On the data/broadband side of the business LIME continues to dominate.

Many Barbadians believed when Telebarbados entered the market it would have ‘buss it open’. Bear in mind Telebarbados is affiliated to the Barbados Light and Power (BL&P) which has the most comprehensive pole distribution in Barbados. The import of this is, there was and still is the opportunity for Telebarbados to launch a frontal assault on LIME. Instead our best information indicates that Telebarbados is happy to focus on the more profitable commercial segment of the market. In fairness to them a major hurdle to date has been getting LIME to agree to allow Telebarbados customers to walk with their LIME landline telephone numbers. For example the Telebarbados subscriber would have to get a new telephone number. Another area where the regulator should play a pivotal role when adjudicating interconnectivity agreements in the sector.

The current state of things begs the question, how liberalize is our telecommunications market when the big bully can sit on its legacy advantage to the detriment of the consumer. More importantly what is the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) and by extension the government going to do about it? The government assumed office almost three years ago on the back of a promise to tackle the high cost of living. Reasonable Barbadians appreciate the challenge posed by the continuing global financial crisis but should Barbadians be satisfied it has done enough to pull back telecommunications cost? As a service-based economy telecommunications cost represents a significant chunk of the budget to how business is done in Barbados.

In the mobile market we are told LIME and Digicel support a GSM network with limited EDGE coverage. We understand the technology is much further along to where we are in Barbados. The question has to be asked therefore, what value has the opening up of the market brought to Barbados in the mobile sector? Is it enough to hear the telecommunications companies boasting of the level of mobile handset penetration? What about the value added services at the right price which gives Barbadian mobile consumers the power of choice? The government of Barbados has been silent as LIME and Digicel pillage the pockets of unsuspecting Barbadians.

Barbadians continue to be taken advantage of by LIME on the broad band network. It is a known to be inadequate to service current demand often resulting in poor service. Digicel has not offered any serious competition in the broad band segment and Telebarbados offers a wireless service at no significant price benefit to the consumer.