Jamaica - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

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Last updated: 27 May 2021 Update History

Report Pages: 119

Jamaica licenses its third mobile telecom provider

Jamaica’s telecom sector has for many years been propped up by the mobile sector, which accounts for the vast majority of internet connections and voice lines. It also accounts for just over half of telecom sector revenue. The merger between Digicel and Claro’s Jamaican business in 2012 strengthened Digicel’s position in the market, but in recent quarters Digicel Group’s financial difficulties have caused it considerable problems. The Group has considered selling off its units in the Pacific region, while it has renegotiated a number of bonds to reduce its debt to about $5.8 billion. Assets have been placed under the management of a newly created holding company.

Both Digicel and its only rival, Flow (supported by its new owner Liberty Global), have extended their LTE networks across the island, particularly during the pandemic in response to a sharp increase in data traffic.

The regulator has endeavoured to develop the MVNO sector in a bid to improve competition, though with little success. The 700MHz licensee Symbiote Investments, trading as Caricel Jamaica, had its license revoked at the end of 2018 due to breaches of the terms of the Telecommunications Act. The UK-based Privy Council in August 2020 refused Caricel’s application for permission to appeal the revocation of its telecom licences. To fill the gap in the market, a new operator, Rock Mobile, was licensed in May 2021, with obligations to provide 95% population coverage within two years.

In December 2020, the government announced the rollout of a national broadband network costing up to $237 million. The funding will be spent on improving connectivity in underserved areas, improving access to education, and deploying networks to public locations such as hospitals, municipal institutions, and police stations.

To aid in this national broadband effort, the government received a donation of 650km of fibre cabling from local cable TV providers and the two main toll road operators.

To encourage the use of digital channels as the country deals with the Covid-19 pandemic, companies such as Scotiabank have given their customers zero-rated data access to mobile banking applications, while Digicel Jamaica has subsidised data plans and zero-rated data access to some educational platforms and websites.

This report contains overviews, analyses and statistics of the Jamaican fixed-line, mobile and broadband markets together with information on convergence issues and on the country’s fixed line incumbent and major mobile operators.

BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. Since 2020 the telecoms sector, to various degrees, has experienced a downturn in mobile device production. It was also difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G has been postponed or slowed down in some countries.

On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, has offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect will continue to be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.

Although it is challenging to predict and interpret the long-term impacts of the pandemic, these have been acknowledged in the industry forecasts contained in this report.

The report also covers the responses of the telecom operators as well as government agencies and regulators as they react to the crisis to ensure that citizens can continue to make optimum use of telecom services. This can be reflected in subsidy schemes and the promotion of tele-health and tele-education, among other solutions.

Key developments

  • Rock Mobile secures 700MHz licence, becoming Jamaica’s third mobile provider;
  • Digicel transfers assets into a new holding company as its struggles with debt;
  • Digicel Foundation donates $1 million to the National Health Fund for the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines;
  • Government announces rollout of national broadband network, receives donation of 650km of fibre cabling from cable TV and toll road operators;
  • Flow embarks on $150 million investment program, secures spectrum in the AWS band between 1710MHz and 2200MHz;
  • Jamaica Public Service awarded funding by the US Trade and Development Agency to advance the Smart City New Kingston program;
  • Report update includes the regulator’s market updates to Q2 2020, operator data to Q1 2021, Telecom Maturity Index charts and analyses, assessment of the global impact of Covid-19 on the telecoms sector, recent market developments.

Companies mentioned in this report

Columbus Communications, Liberty Global, China Mobile, Digicel Group, Cable & Wireless, Ericsson, Flow, Huawei, LIME, Rivada Networks, Rock Mobile, Symbiote Investments (Caricel), ZTE

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