CANTO 2017 roundup

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Above: Caribbean ICT Ministers. Photo courtesy CANTO.

Ministerial discussions, Smart Cities

The  Ministerial round table saw a wide range of representation from throughout the region with ministers involved in the panel discussion including the Hon. Marlon Penn, Junior Minister, Trade and Investment Promotion, BVI; the Hon. Andrew Wheatley, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Jamaica; the Hon. Catherine Hughes, Ministry of Communications, Guyana; and the Hon. Darcy Boyce, Minister of State with responsibility for Telecom, Barbados.

Mr. Joe So, Huawei CTO ICT Solutions did a presentation on Smart Cities. He pointed out that modern day cities provide spaces for people’s livelihood and Industry development and in the Caribbean the environmental ecology must be considered. He noted that these cities are facing challenges including city governance: natural disasters, terrorist attacks.

The Smart city approach he said “would deliver to the Caribbean efficient city governance, high quality public services and New ICT which is the key to a smarter city and a core part of an enhanced production system”.  Specific to the Caribbean the Smart city initiative for Caribbean he said – “is geared to bring economic value; safer city; and attract more tourists and residents since the Caribbean has superior resources for Tourism.”

Huawei through their presentation continued to prove that they are a great partner for smart cities and are willing to cooperate with partners to build a sustainable system.

Then it was up to the moderator of the Ministerial panel,  Ms. Rochelle Cameron, CANTO Vice Chair to manage what was a very diverse panel of regional government representatives. She was able to elicit a wide range of information and engage in insightful conversation among the panel.

The Hon. Catherine Hughes of Guyana noted that though traditionally an agricultural country undertaking minerals and mining they have realized the need to transform through ICT.

The benefits to be gained involved impacts of online learning because of distant villages and rural communities.  ICT she said also has possibilities for eHealth via online medicine. She also highlighted opportunities for employment and trade as Indigenous communities with products to sell can create ICT hubs, “we can start to transform entrepreneurial activity.”

The work she said has begun as “her ministry started e-govt network to facilitate reaching citizens. Connecting high schools with free Internet to 101 schools including three university campuses.”

The Hon. Andrew Wheatley, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Jamaica noted that they have realized ICT is a pillar for economic growth and Set a target of 5% economic growth in 4 years. Jamaica he says want to use ICT to improve efficiency and interacting with citizens and is moving away from just consumers to innovators of technology.

The panel took the time to discuss critical issues affecting the Caribbean including: Cyber security, and where we are with regard to legislation? How can we get more regional collaboration? How do we as a region deal with OTTs who are unlicensed and untaxed? How do we go forward with more level playing field with indigenous operators? And big data/artificial intelligence.

The Digital Economy

Can Telco’s take advantage of the disruptive digital economy (DDE)? The Moderator of that panel was Javier Rua, ICT Legal Council and the panelists included Shernon Osepa, Internet Society (IS), Veena Rawat, GSMA, and Jose Otero, 5GAmericas and Delroy McClean, CWC.

In weighing in on what Telcos are doing to survive, Shernon Osepa noted that Telco’s should get acquainted with and take advantage of the DDE. If they don’t, they die, and emphasized that nothing is wrong with disruptive technologies.

Delroy McClean of CWC stated that they encourage their people and conduct internship programs. This he said helps them to understand what their demands are first hand. He stated that CWC uses the technology to remove barriers as they are encountered in organization and that they embraced models of internal disruption. The panel also discussed the regulatory approach to OTT and the concept of a single ICT space.

In conclusion, the moderator noted that there are lots of opportunity in digital in the Caribbean. That collaboration among stakeholders is paramount as no collaboration, means no progress. It was noted that in order to take advantage of the disruptive digital economy we should focus on barriers and facilitate harmonization especially in the sub region, and ideally global. As the region moved forward what the panel determined as necessary was flexibility and long term planning which would include a road map for regulations and spectrum management.

The Future of the Digital economy: Is it really digital? This was the title of a presentation done by Renato Osato, Vice President, Customer Business Executive.

Mr. Osato noted that there were 3 forces shaping communications market: digital economy; digital technology; digital customer and that digital technologies: open and scalable technologies have the capacity of enabling business and customer transformation.

He pointed to statistics which show that 50% of CSPs new digital services originate from partnerships and investments. In order for new and old businesses to survive he noted that the digital customer has to be catered to and that today’s digital customer is more complex. Getting this right he noted would retain customer loyalty and allow companies to achieve higher Net Promoter Score

Mr. Soto also discussed some of the challenges hindering digital transformation which included, explosion of new services, complexity of new processes, lack of funding, lack of available skills and a lack of management support.

5G Discussions

One of the future facing discussions which has been on the Agenda is 5G. This issue was discussed via a panel discussion entitled: 5G Technology and the Potential Benefits to providers in the Caribbean. The panel was moderated by David Cox (organization) and included Tim Burke, Vice President, Strategic Technology, Liberty Global.

Mr. Burke’s presentations included a review of the Wireless technology evolution, and the fact that each generation takes a long time to get going and stays for a while. Noting that over time we have moved from Analog to GSM to CDMA to LTE and that these advances have allowed us to benefit from increasing bandwidth of each generation of technology 5 G like generation before will bring the world and the Caribbean Spectral efficiency improvement.

He noted that LTE and 5G enabling technologies will bring to the region, increasing cell density, advanced arenas, better modulation, Beam forming and Beam tracking. As cell size coverage varies with frequencies and higher frequency spectrum being aggressively deployed, we will see new mobile phones handle both FDD and TDD modes across many frequencies.

With all these changes the role of the Regulators in the region and the general regulatory environment must be contemplated. When pressed on what would be an ideal environment Mr. Burke suggested that it should be one which “stimulates competition…”

In concluding, the Moderator (David Cox) asked Mr. Burke, How can this technology (5G) transform the Caribbean? What will be the social impact? His response was: “It’s all about education; to bring broadband speeds to the general population and doing so economically, will help so much. The key is getting broadband to the masses and bridging digital divide between rural and urban communities.”

The 33rd Annual Conference and Trade Exhibition (CANTO 2017), is the Caribbean’s premier telecommunications event for industry professionals, academics and regional governments. The event ran from the 16th -19th July at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana Dominican Republic.

C&W/Liberty presentation

The highlight of Mr. Reid’s presentation was his announcement that Cable and Wireless Communications had completed a groundbreaking pre-5G (fifth generation wireless broadband technology) trial in Antigua.

This he said means that Antigua will be the first country in the region with the most advanced pre-5G network, delivering download peak speeds of up to 800 Mbps. Cable and Wireless expects to test a 5G prototype reaching 2 to 5 Gbps peak speeds, which will have a profound positive impact on the island and implications for ICT capabilities for the region.

Mr. Reid also took the opportunity to underscore why C&W was a more resilient organization having benefited from a combination of the rich legacy of C&W, the spirited and entrepreneurial Columbus Communications, and its new parent company Liberty Global with its international reach and expertise.

Highlighting some of the company’s achievements in the region, Reid noted that they have undertaken numerous initiatives to improve networks/systems and platforms underpinned by a people agenda as they continue to be a responsible corporate entity and major employer investing in communities.

C&W’s network infrastructure in the region is over 150 years – from laying the first transatlantic cable to being the first to bring a 100% digital experience, to investing in local and international content and the channels to access them. Recently, they have deployed fiber network in the Region including smaller islands and larger territories. To date, they have introduced 4G LTE mobile services across 9 markets