Snapshot: 2013 update on the state of telecoms in the Caribbean
An update of fixed-line, mobile/cellular and fixed-broadband take-up across select Caribbean countries, as of 2012.
For the third year running, we have updated our survey of the take-up of key telecoms services across the Caribbean. This year, 17 countries have been included, which are listed in Table 1.
The data presented was drawn for data published by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). However, we again emphasise that although the ITU has established clear definitions for all of the indicators it collects, the member countries supply the data to the organisation. Hence it is not clear the extent to which the ITU attempted to corroborate or validate the information provided, and neither are any explanations given for anomalies that might be evident.
Results: Mobile/cellular market
Figure 1 shows mobile/cellular subscription density in 16 Caribbean countries (Turks and Caicos Islands was not included, as no figures were published). Twelve of the 16 countries have mobile/cellular subscriptions densities over 100%, the highest being reported in the British Virgin Islands (205%), Antigua and Barbuda (198%) the Cayman Islands (168%). Three countries have mobile/cellular subscriptions densities of less than 100% – Belize, at approximately 64 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants and Guyana at around 69 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, and newcomer, Jamaica, at 97 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.
Across the countries reviewed, there was a net increase in the number mobile/cellular subscriptions per 100 inhabitants of approximately 8% in 2012, from an average of 126 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in 2011, to 136 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in 2012. However, there were wide variations in the change in penetration levels in the individual countries between the two years. Increases in subscriber density ranged from as low as 0.4% in the Cayman Islands, to 13% in Dominica, whilst decreases ranged from -0.5% in Barbados to -21% in Belize.
Results: Fixed-broadband Internet market
Across 75% of countries surveyed, fixed Internet broadband subscriptions increased. Figure 2 shows the most recent fixed broadband penetration figures for individual countries. The highest penetrations were reported in the Cayman Islands (33 subscriptions per 100 of the population), then Anguilla (26 subscriptions per 100 of the population) and St. Kitts and Nevis (27 subscriptions per 100 of the population), whilst the lowest were in the Bahamas (3 subscriptions per 100 of the population), Belize (3 subscriptions per 100 of the population) and Guyana (4 subscriptions per 100 of the population).
Since 2011, the countries that realised the greatest increase in broadband subscription density were Guyana, which experienced a 36% increase, followed by Surname, 21%, and Trinidad and Tobago, 15%. Conversely, the greatest decline in subscription density was reported in the Bahamas, where more than half the subscriptions were lost, resulting in a loss of density of -62%! The Bahamas is followed by Antigua and Barbuda, which lost -19%, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which reported a drop of -4% in its subscription levels in 2012.
Results: Fixed-line telephony market
Across the Caribbean, fixed-line telephone subscriptions and subscription densities continue to decline. In 2012, and as shown in Figure 3, the highest subscriber densities were reported in the Cayman Islands, at 65 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, followed by 53 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in Barbados, and 52 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in the British Virgin Islands. On the other hand, the lowest fixed-line telephony subscriber density was reported in Belize, 9 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, Jamaica, 10 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, and Suriname, 16 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.
Since 2011, the greatest change in subscription density occurred in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where a -19% decrease was reported from 2011 levels. Although across all of the countries surveyed, there was a net -2% decrease in subscription density levels, a few countries experienced an increase. They included Dominica (3%), Saint Lucia (3%), the Bahamas (2%) and Barbados (2%).
Some points to note…
Similar to last year’s review, the Caribbean as a whole still continues to show signs of slowing down in the fixed-line, mobile/cellular and fixed broadband markets. Further, in many instances, the markets are contracting, in terms of the size of the subscriber base, and as a result subscription density.
With regard to the mobile/cellular market, and as noted earlier, the majority of countries still have teledensities of over 100%. Interestingly, the British Virgin Islands reported mobile/cellular penetration of over 200%. Such a high density is unusual, as it could be attributed to a number of reasons, such as:
- a fair number of residents having at least three mobile/cellular subscriptions, or
- there is a significantly high number of subscriptions, most likely prepaid, that might be considered dormant or active (although they are neither), but are still included in performance metrics.
The decrease in fixed Internet broadband subscriptions in the Bahamas is also unusual. Although strange, a possible contributor to this significant decline might be consumers moving from wired to wireless services, such as Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and mobile broadband. Having said this, penetration levels for fixed broadband Internet in he Bahamas has been decreasing steadily since 2008, from a reported 10.08 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, to 2.76 subscriptions per inhabitants, a 75% drop over four years.
It must be highlighted that the figures published by the ITU would (most likely) have been supplied by the Bahamas, which is best positioned to provide insights into the state of its fixed Internet broadband service. It may be interesting in coming months to get a better understanding of what is happening in the Bahamas, since this is decline in Internet broadband is not only significant, but it also suggests that the Bahamas is becoming less data-driven (or data oriented) than its sister Caribbean islands, which are all (to varying degrees) promoting increased access to and availability of Internet broadband services in their individual countries.