POND ISLAND–TelEm Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kendall Dupersoy urges authorities to exercise “caution” to an idea coming out of a recently-concluded telecommunication conference in the Dominican Republic, that St. Maarten can enhance its telecommunication services to residents and visitors by offering free WiFi throughout the island.
TelEm said in a press release on Thursday that the idea was put forward by Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEAT) Melissa Arrindell-Doncher during the recently ended 33rd annual Conference and Trade Exhibition of CANTO, in the Dominican Republic, and repeated in at least one media outlet this week.
“I am all for making telecommunication services affordable for TelEm Group customers, however, I cannot see how we can benefit by offering free WiFi “spots” to the millions of visitors who come to the island each year, who are currently paying for this service,” said Dupersoy.
Doncher had said in a press release earlier this week that she met with officials from Huawei Technologies to explore possibilities of establishing WiFi solutions for cruise visitors, in collaboration with local providers. The meeting, she said, was strictly exploratory in nature, in which the Minister sought and Huawei offered advice.
According to Dupersoy, when the matter was discussed during a meeting with a well-known international vendor who can provide the infrastructure needed, he immediately expressed his concerns. He further offered to meet with the Minister when both returned to St. Maarten to find ways of working together to make cost affordable without affecting the company’s bottom line.
Dupersoy says he is ready to use TelEm Group resources and in-house expertise to come up with a workable and successful project that is mutually beneficial to everyone and serves the purpose of the tourist industry, the Minister, the community and also TelEm Group.
In his view, government should not continue to give away services for free that are still being charged for in other countries and by other carriers, since TelEm Group has the very large expense of bringing internet to the island, and must be able to monetize this while providing cost-effective service to the community, business and visitors to the island.
“I feel it is important to sound a note of caution, because at CANTO, the idea of free WiFi on St. Maarten was given only as exploratory talk, but now that I am back on St. Maarten, it appears that this is more than just exploratory talk,” Dupersoy said.
“We are currently providing free internet to schools and institutions, and are now planning a major Fibre To The Home (FTTH) island-wide roll-out, that will also include a major increase in bandwidth to these educational and community organizations. The plan also incorporates lowering prices to customers, however, this can all be affected and may not be possible, if tourists and visitors generally can get WiFi services for free, that they were previously paying for,” the CEO said.
He explained that telecommunication carriers, such as TelEm are losing revenues daily from a decrease in fixed voice and roaming customers, because of free services such as Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, Snap Chat, etc. “If data revenues are also now put at risk by giving away data for free, then any hope of keeping our cost to customers low, offering affordable rates and continuing with programmes such as free fibre telecommunication services for schools and organizations, goes out the door.”
He said he will be seeking a meeting with the TEATT Minister to further discuss the matter and ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to identifying and providing the very best telecommunication services to St. Maarten and enhancing telecommunication services for residents and visitors to the island alike.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/68032-dupersoy-against-free-wifi-idea-for-country