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Telecom revenue still climbing

Telecom revenues are still climbing by double-digit levels, two years after the onset of the pandemic.

In the January to March 2022 quarter, telecoms firms generated $29 billion in revenue or 15 per cent more than the $25.18 billion in the comparative period a year ago. The inflows were also 17.5 per cent higher than the pre-pandemic figure of $24.63 billion in the March 2020 quarter.

The Office of Utilities Regulation, which reports on the performance of the sector through the Telecommunications Market Information Report, says the current edition incorporates filings from three licensees, namely Cable and Wireless Jamaica, Columbus Communications Jamaica, and Digicel Jamaica. The first two operate under the umbrella of FLOW Jamaica.

Lockdowns and curfews led persons to rely more on digital solutions for meetings and entertainment. It led to a growth in Internet revenue at the time. That growth, however, continues and has widened to include mobile and fixed-line services, according to the latest data from the OUR, which regulates the sector.

There are over 100 telecoms licencees, but large players Digicel and FLOW control the majority of the market.

“While we don’t have the data inhouse on all the players in the market, it is a reasonable assumption that the major players, FLOW and Digicel, would jointly account for a significantly large proportion of the market that could be over 90 per cent,” said Elizabeth Bennett Marsh, director, consumer and public affairs at the OUR.

FLOW Jamaica and Digicel Jamaica did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Telecoms revenue is split into three main lines: fixed line, mobile, and Internet services. For the March quarter, fixed-line services generated $2.99 billion, up 26 per cent year on year; mobile rose eight per cent to $13.62 billion; and Internet rose by 21 per cent to $12.35 billion.

Over the span of a year ending March 2022, telecoms revenue amounted to $111 billion up 12 per cent over the $99 billion generated in the same 2021 period but flat relative to March 2020 when the pre-pandemic turnover was $111.1 billion.

Since the onset of the pandemic, access to the Internet moved from being aspirational to essential, both as a facilitator of online education and remote-working arrangements,

In the years leading up to the pandemic, 2017 to 2010, Internet penetration grew slowly from 58.1 per cent to 63.7 per cent, according to the latest Economic and Social Survey Jamaica report published by the Planning Institute of Jamaica. No data was included for 2021.

By contrast to the Jamaica situation, data published by the multisectoral COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force showed high-speed Internet penetration of 96 per cent to 99 per cent for some developed European nations such as Norway, Iceland, and Sweden.

Data shows that more Jamaicans have access to the Internet than they do a working computer. It means that many are accessing content on their mobile phones through services provided by FLOW Jamaica and Digicel Jamaica. The mobile-phone penetration stands at 2.9 million, which is nearly equivalent to the size of the population.

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