The Fair Trading Commission (FTC), assumed regulatory responsibilities on 2nd January 2001, and in tandem with other Government Agencies has facilitated liberalisation of telecommunications pursuant to its regulatory and oversight of competition mandates.
In 2004, liberalisation of the Telecommunications sector set the stage for a transformation in the cellular market and new service offerings in wireless. The investment by TeleBarbados, two and a half years later, of a second sub-sea fiber optic cable was an important strategic addition to the Barbados Telecommunications infrastructure.
The introduction of Digicel to the local market has shaken up the cellular market and contributed, along with TeleBarbados, to far lower rates while dazzling Barbadians with new cellular phone sets, products and services.
Liberalisation has come with a light hand for the Internet through a policy on VoIP (Voice over the Internet Protocol). With the liberalisation of Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) the monopoly Fixed Line operator, Cable & Wireless, now rebranded as LIME, was no longer responsible for the internal wiring and telephone device. This has encouraged entrepreneurs to offer smart telephone boxes to consumers who can make overseas telephone calls at lower cost.
The light hand on Internet service has also led to wider use of VoIP, with LIME providing a residential long distance service. TeleBarbados later entered the local telephone market with VoIP and Fixed Wireless solutions, while Digicel has also looked in this direction with a wireless telephone solution.
Internet cafes have also sprung up around the island while Barbadians and their guests alike use Skype, a free telephone solution which can be downloaded to a computer and facilitate free or paid overseas calls via their computer.
TeleBarbados has also brought new service options via Wimax to Government and leading companies while enhancing access to the Internet for scores of Barbadians.
While some policies have not always been implemented quickly, new investments have however come with Blue Communications offering overseas calling cards to add to the competitive landscape.
Interconnection has been a controversial issue with Digicel accusing LIME of inhibiting competition and new entrants generally dissatisfied with termination rates and policy issues related to new service opportunities. Some termination rates remained unchanged for up to six years while the new stakeholders clamoured for change. The second sub-sea cable from TeleBarbados coupled with an open policy of competition has contributed to enhanced services. TeleBarbados has also added to the domestic fiber optic network along with its robust technology.
Liberalisation policy has led to benefits for government, business and consumers. Internet prices have declined while just about every Barbadian has a cellular phone. Data rates have also declined as a result of competition and there have been initiatives by LIME to improve bandwidth and offer ADSL to thousands more residential customers.
Barbados continues to look at new policies which the new entrants hope will boost their businesses while they too look at new services in the wireless arena to give them an extra edge in the market.