KeyTech considering cable plan

By Jonathan Kent

KeyTech Ltd. is considering plans to install a new multi-million-dollar undersea telecommunications cable linking the Island with the US and has been in talks with potential fellow investors.

The Ministry of Environment, Telecommunications and E-Commerce has invited companies to tender plans for such a new cable, with a deadline of tomorrow for applications.

KeyTech, which is the parent company of Bermuda Telephone Company (BTC) and the cellular phone provider M3 Wireless, wants to gain access to the international carriers market to compete with Cable & Wireless (C&W) and TeleBermuda International (TBI).

BTC chief executive officer Francis Mussenden told The Royal Gazette yesterday that the company believed the way to reduce pricing of high-speed data services for consumers was to break the domination of C&W and TBI.

His comments came after a BTC press conference yesterday to announce details of the company’s improvement in customer service thanks to the restructuring of the past five years.

“KeyTech, the parent of BTC, has an interest in becoming one of those players (international carriers),” Mr. Mussenden said.

“We are actively considering the idea of a new cable and we have talked with some potential investors. I hope the Government would be keen on allowing a Bermuda company to have the opportunity of competing in this market. It fits in with Bermuda’s best interests. Currently we are reliant on overseas entities.”

Brasil Telecom’s fibre-optic cable is the Island’s most modern submarine telecommunications link. And C&W has announced plans to replace one of its two ageing cables with a new $22 million high-capacity cable expected to be in operation by October this year.

Under the existing licensing regime, the likes of BTC and internet service providers must purchase capacity on the Brasil Telecom cable from C&W or TBI.

Mr. Mussenden argued that this should change — in the interests of consumers.

“Cable & Wireless may want to preserve the status quo, but we want to see higher penetration of broadband services to get it into schools, homes and more widely throughout the business community,” Mr. Mussenden said.

And the CEO believed there was enough potential in the limited Bermuda market to justify the investment in a new cable.

“There is a lot of capacity on the Brasil Telecom cable, but we tend to look more to the long term,” he said. “There will be an explosion in internet business that will bring growth.

“In our view, that’s not going to happen with the current players. We have to purchase from the international providers and that constraint prevents us from delivering better prices to everybody, which is what we would like to do.

“Better-priced broadband services would help the standard of education and would help the community. It would be a good thing for Bermuda.”

Earlier Mr. Mussenden, who has worked for BTC for more than 30 years and took over as CEO in 2002, said in a press conference: “We are not the old BTC.”

He wanted to brief the public on improvements the company has made during a five-year corporate transformation which included a $60 million investment in infrastructure.

Five years ago, he admitted, customers faced an average wait of one to two months for installation and around three weeks for repair service. Installation waits are now down to three days on average, while repair times have been reduced to between one and three days.

In the past BTC had “become distant from the customers it served” and the transformation had coming about through listening to customers’ concerns and requests and acting upon them, Mr. Mussenden said.

In celebration of BTC’s 120th birthday, the company has launched an advertising campaign, under the motto: “Setting new standards — seeing results.” The ads will feature the comments of customers who have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of service they have received in recent years.

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