Friday 29 September 2023

No Plans for 5G in Barbados with Plenty of Scope for LTE Improvement

Barbados is a sovereign island country in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean. It's covering an area of 432 km2 and is situated about 168 km east of the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and 400 km north-east of Trinidad and Tobago. Almost 300,000 people live on the island.

Like on many Caribbean islands there are these two usual providers: Digicel Barbados and Flow (by Cable & Wireless)

Flow is the incumbent provider and Digicel came to the Caribbean 2001-6 to end this monopoly. A third provider called Sunbeach on CDMA was closed in 2013. Digicel has become market leader and commercially launched its 4G/LTE mobile network in the capital Bridgetown in 2016, Flow in 2017.

Flow is on US frequencies of 1900 MHz for 2G and 850 MHz and 1900 MHz for 3G, while Digicel uses European bands of 900 MHz and 1800 MHz for 2G and 2100 MHz for 3G. Digicel's 4G/LTE has started on 700 MHz and 1900 MHz (bands 17 and 2) while FLOW's 4G/LTE is on bands 1900 MHz and 850 MHz (bands 2 and 5).

Digicel started in 2004 to challenge the monopoly of Lime (now known as Flow). They have been very successful in Barbados and had a 57% market share in 2015. In 2016 they were the first operator to launch 4G/LTE in Bridgetown and have extensive coverage over the island. 

Flow (previously called Lime), is operated by Cable & Wireless. In recent years they have fallen back against Digicel, but lowered rates in 2017. They offer a good 2G and 3G coverage, and launched 4G/LTE in 2017.

Barbados has issued a third telecoms licence, as it seeks to break up the long-standing Digicel-Flow duopoly. Clifford Bostic, Director of Digital Infrastructure at the Minister of Industry, Innovation, Science and Technology (MIST), told Barbados Today:

‘We have a third service provider in Barbados that has been licensed, and that is KW Telecommunications Ltd, and they are also preparing for number portability, as well as preparing to launch their services in Barbados.’

While little is known about KW Telecommunications, or its backers, the newcomer appears set to fill the void left when the previous third operator, debt-wracked Ozone Wireless shut down in August 2019, barely two years after its launch.

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