POND ISLAND–St. Maarten came one step closer to laying the foundation for the creation of a “Smart City” with the signing of a multi-million guilder agreement between the TelEm Group and its telecommunication vendor-partner MER Group on Friday.
The multi-million Guilder turnkey project is to provide an Island-wide fibre optic telecommunication infrastructure for Dutch St. Maarten.
TelEm Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Helma Etnel said with the signing of the contract, the TelEm Group and in particular the principals involved in the process have delivered on a promise to build a Smart City, or at least the foundation for a Smart City for St. Maarten.
The NAf. 28 Million Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) Project is being financed with a loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) along with a Bond Issue of the RBC Merchant Bank in Trinidad and Tobago, TelEm said in a press release.
Both signing companies expect work to begin on the main network components in August, after a set up and mobilization of resources and equipment on-island by the Israeli-based company MER. The finer points of the FTTH rollout will be announced in greater detail in the coming weeks, it was stated in the release.
The contracts were officially signed following several days of tough negotiation and a “transparent tender process” guided by Ireland-based Consultant James Dowling, on behalf of TelEm Group.
Dowling thanked participants in the bidding process and believes that in MER, TelEm Group has found a very capable company that will deliver on its promise in the most cost effective way using the best engineering practices to bring the very best Smart City product for St. Maarten and the Caribbean when it comes to broadband services.
The signing was overseen by MER Group President Marian Cohen, who pledged the full commitment of all MER employees, with the support of its shareholders to ensure success in the project. “I am sure this is only the beginning, especially when I hear words such as Smart City and Safe City. This is honey to my heart, because it is exactly what we do,” said Cohen, whose signing team also included Vice President Business Development and Marketing Shay Haas and Director General Segev Hostik.
Signatories on behalf of TelEm Group were Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kendall Dupersoy and Etnel. The Principals involved from TelEm were Chief Technical Officer (CTO) Eldert Louisa, Manager Outside Plant Marco London; Manager Engineering and Planning Jed Carty and Consultant James Dowling. “This is a dream come true. Many people talk, but do not realise. With our own staff, assisted by a consultant and with the support of our Supervisory Board and Shareholder we have realised. I am happy to be signing what is a dream that is coming true for the TelEm Group of Companies,” said Etnel, who has also highlighted the structural approach that TelEm Group and MER will be following to deliver a fibre network of much higher quality that incidental fibre installations that have thus far taken place in St. Maarten.
Dupersoy thanked the MER Group for showing much respect to the island and to the St. Maarten people while participating in the bidding process, when MER conducted its own work on the ground, including speaking with various contractors and government officials. “The contractors and persons who spoke with me about their interactions with MER thought the company was tough, but fair. It is very important for me that you treated them with respect and that you were very honest with them. That makes me very comfortable with MER and I think we are going to be very successful in this venture,” Dupersoy said.
The CEO believes MER has demonstrated from its well prepared groundwork and its final negotiations that the company can bring added value to the entire project bringing with it added revenue opportunities for TelEm Group in a telecommunication market where margins are constantly getting smaller and smaller.