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Bahamas eyes 3G, WiMax, market liberalization

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BTC is currently phasing out its TDMA network, which accounts for 110,000 of its 260,000 mobile subscribers. The remainder are GSM, while the company also has a CDMA network used only for inbound roaming.

Williams sees total mobile subscribers reaching 296,000 by mid-2008.

The CDMA network will not be phased out but kept to provide roaming services for US tourists.

"The most recently deployed base stations are compatible with both GPRS EDGE as well as UMTS, so the question is how we move forward, to 3G or wideband CDMA," Williams said.

"We want to get GSM ubiquitous throughout the country, even at EDGE level, so that tourists and investors can get their BlackBerrys to work. Once we get that the next question is do we move to 3G. I don't think it will be too far in the future," Williams said.

Besides 3G, the company is also looking at other wireless broadband technologies such as Wi-Fi and WiMax, and French equipment supplier Alcatel-Lucent is currently deploying a mesh network for BTC.

According to Williams, BTC's contract obliges them to provide telecommunications services to any settlement of 10 or more households. In the Bahamas there are 700 islands, rocks and quays.

The most likely scenario will be a mixture of 3G and other wireless technologies to provide access nationwide and cost will be the determining factor.

The Bahamas has a high telecommunications penetration rate for its 212,000 population. Fixed lines total 134,000.

While the mobile telephony market is yet to be liberalized, Williams sees that happening in the not too distant future. There are 14 licensed ISPs on the islands, one competitor in the long distance market and one operator offering PSTN services using a fixed wireless network.

Privatization of BTC is being looked at by the government according to Williams.

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Tags: mesh network  alcatel-lucent  edge  wimax,  gprs  btc  fixed wireless  tdma  mesh  Bahamas