State-of-the-art connections

The rapid expansion of cell phone coverage and internet available on island has been a remarkable accomplishment.

 

Communications technology has always been one of the great accelerators to economic growth in developing areas, but nowhere is it more valuable than in places isolated by geography.

For an island nation that has moved from an isolated chain to an international travel destination in just a generation, the telecom infrastructure ranks among the country’s most important systems.

Internet is available via ADSL, cable modem and 4G networks.

While there has been some telex link to Turks and Caicos for the past 115 years, mobile phone technology didn’t arrive until 2005. The demands of modern luxury travel made cellular coverage a necessity, but the truly transformative feature of mobile phones here has been its ability to connect remote areas across a far-flung island chain affordably, improving quality of life while lowering the cost of doing business.

Today, wireless internet and cell phone access is effectively available across the nation. While some limited “dead spots” remain, the transformation to universal coverage is one of the great stories of the past decade. Essentially, only the uninhabited island of East Caicos currently lacks cellular service, though that could be remedied with the addition of a tower.

LTE is 20x faster than the current 4G HSPA+

Three companies offer mobile services in Turks and Caicos. Two others offer fixed Internet, with LIME providing service via ADSL, and WIV offering web connections via cable modem. Meanwhile, two companies – Digicel and Islandcom – offer 4G wireless broadband internet on the Evolved HSPA+ standard. Both have been licensed to roll out the next-generation LTE standard, but wireless service in the TCI has already evolved to the point where internet speeds in some locations rival or exceed the performance of fixed networks.

The full results of this rapid expansion won’t be apparent for some time, but technology is already changing the way residents do business, get their news and connect to entertainment.

Perhaps the biggest long-term change will be in education. Every child in every school in the nation, no matter how remote, will soon have access to tablets with free broadband thanks to an agreement with Digicel.

LTE is set to be rolled out in the next 18 months.

Costs remain higher than in the continental U.S. and Canada, mostly because of the limited number of wholesale carriers and the added overhead associated with sending signals undersea via cable. But pricing is not prohibitive, and consumer costs are falling over time. Image: Eden Media