Wireless
Telecommunications in Jamaica

Wireless telecommunications in Jamaica has grown exponentially since 2000!
[every now and then I throw in a 'big' word in my writing :-)].

The truth is we now have a fully digital telephone communication system with a mobile penetration of over 95%! This puts us way ahead of our other Caribbean counterparts.

The InternetWorldStats website fittingly quoted the minister of Industry and Commerce, Phillip Paulwell as saying that:

"there has been tremendous growth in cellular subscription since the liberalization process started in 2000, moving from about 70,000 subscribers to over two million at present."(May 2006) "Mobile penetration in Jamaica exceeds that of the rest of the Caribbean and indeed the rest of the western hemisphere!".

[Bear in mind we still have much less than 3 million people in the island- More stats on my 'Profile of Jamaica' page]

And you bet, the government was very boastful about this accomplishment. I recalled Agriculture minister Roger Clarke, in a political campaign, boasted that 'almost everyone has at least two phones now', which is in fact true, I had two! - a Digicel and a Bmobile, but end up losing one. Now I only have the Digicel...want to help me acquire a new bmobile? :-)

I suppose, its not really that we are rich (quite the opposite) but we were victims of aggressive marketing campaigns and I must admit, some of the deals were sweet hard to miss!

What is Digicel and Bmobile? Forgive me please, I should have explained to you before.

OK, we currently have 3 significant supplier of wireless telecommunications in Jamaica.

  1. Digicel
  2. Cable and Wireless (Bmobile) &
  3. Claro, formerly Oceanic Digital (MiPhone)

Wireless phone case seller on the Street in Jamaica

Flow Jamaica, although not (and will not be-as far as I know) a provider of wireless telecommunications in Jamaica, is worthy mentioning. They will surely create an impact on other areas of telecommunications though, for example, Internet, Voip and CaTV.

As of March 2007, they were still in the process of setting up their systems across the country- they did not have island wide coverage as yet.

The Irish owned Digicel has become a generic term for mobile phones in Jamaica. Both Digicel and Oceanic Digital were granted licenses in 2001 to operate mobile services in the newly liberalized telecom market that had once been the sole domain of the incumbent Cable and Wireless monopoly.

Digicel opted for the more widely used GSM wireless standard, while Oceanic opted for the CDMA standard.

Cable and Wireless, which had begun with TDMA, subsequently upgraded to GSM- The last I heard they phased out the TDMA system in early April 2007.

BMobile uses the 1900 GSM band, while Digicel uses both 900 and 1800 (If that means anything to you).

The government is still now willing to grant licenses to interested parties. Every now and then I hear a new potential provider name pops up. And what do I conclude? - It is still quite interesting times for wireless telecommunications in Jamaica.

Take a look at Cable and Wireless Jamaica website here, Claro here and Digicel Jamaica here for further information on each of the companies.

Posted:7/2/07

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