Innovation lies at the core of any economy; it facilitates productivity and growth. Innovation in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) takes place at many levels. Within the telecommunications (telecoms) sector itself, it is manifested in the rate at which new technologies are developed and brought to the market. It also fuels development in other industries, such as manufacturing and services. Essentially, it drives the knowledge economy.
APUA Telecoms understands the role that it plays in providing a communication backbone that assists in the refinement and improved efficiency of business processes, and meeting the communication needs of an entire nation. Some may see this organisation as an incumbent seeking to maintain a tight grip on the market, but in truth, it is a guardian of the legacy of local ownership and innovation.
In much of the English-speaking Caribbean, in the context of fixed voice and broadband internet, the incumbent was known by one, or may be a few names, depending on the owner at the time. We first came to know it as Cable & Wireless; this company has deep roots in the Caribbean, dating back to 1934, when they purchased the West Indies Cable Network, allowing them to provide the Caribbean and Panama with international communications. It evolved into b-mobile, and then as we began to remember the name Lime, we had to soon go with the Flow. In 2012, Digicel entered the market and became a major competitor in mobile services, alternatives for fixed voice, and now home internet.
The nation of Antigua and Barbuda has a slightly different story. While Cable & Wireless began to invest in infrastructural development in most of the neighbouring islands; the fixed voice network in Antigua remained in the hands of the government; starting with the Telephone Department in the Ministry of Works, which was then consolidated with the Water and Electricity Departments to form a statutory body, the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), in 1973. While Cable & Wireless enjoyed a monopoly on international voice traffic up to 2012 in Antigua, the rest of the telecoms market remained virtually opened.
Although there were no barriers to entry in the mobile market, it seems no one thought it a lucrative venture to challenge Cable & Wireless or Boat Phone in a huge way until APUA launched its own service, PCS in 2000. PCS was the first GSM service offered in not only Antigua, but in the English-speaking Caribbean. For the first time, the average man was able to access a mobile service, and this broke the market wide open. The mobile landscape changed quickly, Cable and Wireless rebranded and altered their rate structure, and AT&T acquired Airtel Cellular, later to become Digicel.
APUA also changed the broadband Internet landscape in 2005, when it launched its ADSL service inet. Once again, a first-mover, in a market that was dominated by single operator offering sub-par services at a very high cost. Despite the fact that by this time, fixed voice was on the decline, inet made significant strides in the market with a service that converted existing copper lines into conduits that could transmit data at high speed. Being ever the pioneer, APUA Telecoms has now become the first broadband Internet provider on island to offer fiber to the home services. This is next generation technology that will allow the company to meet the growing communication needs of the populace.
As APUA Telecoms looks to the future there is the understanding that the services that it offers will continue to transform lives in this nation. The small local business can now access a global market through electronic commerce, and advanced education can be had in the comfort of one’s living room. Corporations can streamline processes and increased productivity among employees through the use of software enabled collaboration solutions by increased access to bandwidth. •