Too many cell phones in Trinidad and Tobago

Consumers Deserve True Competition, say experts

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago. There are roughly 175 mobile telephones per 100 persons in Trinidad and Tobago, according to the CIA World Factbook website. But some experts are now asking whether the high number of cell phones per citizen is actually a reflection of deficiencies in the telecommunications marketplace that deny users the true benefits of competition.

(Left to right) Bevil Wooding, Chief Knowledge Officer of Congress WBN; Simon Aqui, CEO of IBM Trinidad; Alvaro Celis, Microsoft General Manager, Multi Country Americas; Ric Telford, Vice President, IBM Cloud Services, at the final day of the 2nd Trinidad and Tobago Business and Innovation ICT Symposium, which took place at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, from November 14th to 16th.

These and other considerations emerged on the final day of the 2nd Trinidad and Tobago Business and Innovation ICT Symposium, which took place at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain from November 14th to 16th. In the plenary session on Tuesday morning, Bevil Wooding, a Trinidad-born international technology strategist, and moderator Simon Aqui, CEO of IBM Trinidad, challenged the 200-plus conference participants to look beyond statistics and question the real reasons for the high number of cell phones per citizen in the local mobile market.

What emerged in the debate that followed was that the statistics highlight the reality that a significant number of users hold accounts with both providers Digicel and the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT). This is an indication that although there is no longer a monopoly, conditions in the mobile marketplace still do not facilitate the full benefits that liberalisation was supposed to bring.  Significant indicators include the cost of calling and texting between the networks, and the absence of number portability (the ability of mobile customers to transfer from one operator to a second operator and retain the same cell number).

It is in that context that Wooding, who is also the Chief Knowledge Officer for local nonprofit, Congress WBN, asked the audience to consider whether a greater than 100 per cent mobile penetration rate is cause for boasting or an indicator of the urgent requirement for review of policy and regulation.

“These are not just issues for Trinidad and Tobago.  Across the Caribbean we are seeing the challenges of keeping regulations in pace with market developments.  At the same time we are also feeling the negative impact on our consumers and markets that result from this.  Still, there is a tremendous opportunity for countries in the region to define regulatory frameworks that can deliver the kind of positive socio-economic benefits that attend a healthy and vibrant telecommunications sector,” Wooding said.

The Symposium, hosted by the Ministry of Public Administration, in partnership with the National Information and Communications Technology Company Limited (iGovTT) and the e-Business Roundtable, was part of the Trinidad and Tobago’s ongoing mission to lay a foundation for developing existing businesses and encouraging new ICT-based enterprises and opportunities.

The Trinidad and Tobago Symposium is the latest of several ICT development initiatives rolling out across the Caribbean. On the regional level, the CARICOM Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Steering Committee meets in Barbados this month to discuss the implementation plan for the Regional Digital Development Strategy. That implementation plan will be presented to the regional Heads of Government in early 2011.

For more information on the ICT Symposium, visit the official website at www.ictsymposiumtt.com.

About the ICT Symposium

The second Trinidad and Tobago ICT Business and Innovation Symposium 2010 is a meeting of minds that aims to bring awareness to the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Innovation in the transformation of Trinidad and Tobago into a knowledge-based economy. Themed ?ICT Innovation : Staying Ahead?, the conference is hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Public Administration, the e-Business Roundtable, the National Information and Communications Technology Company Limited (iGovTT), and sponsored by First Citizens, TSTT, IBM, Microsoft, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Illuminat, Fulitsu, Crimson Logic, CANTO, WInfosoft Esprit, World Wide Net, Flow, eTeck, InfoTech, the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union and Teleios Systems Limited.

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