Digicel spends $10m in Debe/Penal connectivity expansion

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

From left, immediate former past president of the Penal/Debe Chamber of Commerce Rampersad Sieuraj , CEO Abraham Smith, Mayor of San Fernando Junia Regrello and, General Manager of Digicel Plus+, Project Scope, Navin Balkissoon stand near the graph which shows new areas that would be provided with the Digicel+ services at Digicel experience store, C3 Mall, San Fernando. – AYANNA KINSALE

AT a cost US $10 million over the next three years, telecommunications provider Digicel has undertaken an expansion exercise into the Debe and Penal.

It was one of the many areas Digicel has identified as part of its expansion programme in TT over the next few years and despite the global supply chain challenges, global inflation, the constantly increasing cost of international television content, and challenges accessing forex, which have all contributed to significantly increasing the cost of doing business, the company continued to deliver quality and efficient service.

On Thursday, the company launched the project at its outlet at C3 Mall, San Fernando.

The company’s CEO Abraham Smith said a major issue in south Trinidad was the lack of fast and reliable fibre broadband connectivity and the infrastructure to transition digitally.

He said, “We know the urgency for which the country, companies and individuals need to arm themselves with the most innovative digital solutions.

“As many people see digital transformation as an opportunity, they don’t particularly know how to implement that to work in their organisation.”

Smith explained Digicel surveyed almost 2, 000 companies across the region about their thoughts on digital transformation and the results showed that 89 per cent saw it as an opportunity but only 61 per cent have taken action, and 30 per cent were concerned about their ability to execute that transformation.

“The data paints a clear picture that while many companies see digital transformation as a game-changer, they don’t particularly know how to implement such a plan within their organisation,” he said.

He added that Digicel was committed to the community through arts, culture and sports and maintained its corporate social responsibility through various projects in the region.

“You can look out for Digicel Plus movie nights, community cricket tournaments, concerts and I can also tell you that the Digicel foundation will soon be establishing a computer and technology lab.

“We encourage registered community groups and NGOs from within the Penal/Debe area, to explore the various grants and project funding that our digicel foundation provides. In fact, right now, you can go online and apply for a $100,000 EPIC grant from the Digicel foundation to implement a sustainable community project.” Smith said.

General Manager of Home and Entertainment Services Navin Balkissoon said the company has about 110,ooo customers and the plan was to reach into the areas that may seem difficult.

“There are still some areas that unfortunately do not have access to the Digicel Plus service. We made a promise to our customers to listen to their feedback and to act on it. Customers have been calling for Digicel Plus to come to their area and we have been listening,” he said.

Balkissoon said, a conversation with one of his former Naparima College schoolteachers about challenges with teaching in the pandemic, opened his eyes to the need for efficient telecommunications services.

“We hope this expansion into Debe/Penal and environs will no longer be at a disadvantage due to poor connectivity. This expansion provides connectivity to 20,000 residents.

“We have been able to accomplish this because we have a great team, we have invested in the best technology, and we continue to spend millions of dollars each year upgrading and maintaining our network.

With increased copper theft which has disrupted services, Balkissoon said Digicel’s fibre optic cables will prevent this.

“We too have fallen victim with our fibre optic lines being cut. Let me reiterate, that Digicel Plus operates a 100 per cent fibre to the home network, meaning, there is absolutely no copper in our lines and when they are cut, they not only disrupt our service and inconvenience customers, but they also result in costly repairs,” Balkissoon said.

Former chairman of the Penal/Debe Chamber of Commerce and businessman Rampersad Sieuraj said Digicel’s investment into the region was long overdue and served to benefit many businesses, entrepreneurs and students.

“Communities like ours are the beneficiaries of rural neglect by our decision makers both past and present. Thank you Digicel for having the vision for private enterprise in a state-controlled entity.

“The lack of and co connectivity in parts of Debe/Penal has forced school dropouts, disadvantaged pupils, ill-prepared students and teachers and this goes on.”

Sieuraj said the introduction of Digicel Plus in the region would hopefully encourage competition in areas of customer service, data efficiency, competitive pricing and improved technology among others.

San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello lobbied for Digicel’s intervention in transforming Harris Promenade to an area where people can gather and relax.

He said Digicel had a great presence in San Fernando through various projects and having a WiFi system installed on the promenade would encourage and make the area think tank for ideas.

26.13 “San Fernando is on the cusp of development. It is currently driven by physical infrastructure, opportunities and communication which is key. Library corner is the only place in the world where seven streets meet. That is a great spot for a cybercafé.

“Harris promenade has been there since 1846 but it has been rundown; it needs a facelift. What is better than a WiFi service, because a promenade is intended for people to sit and relax. If we have a WiFi service, there we can bring back the people.”