<p>Unlike in Europe, telecommunications in small island nations like those found in the Pacific, Indian and Caribbean oceans? I have done considerable work in some of the remotest (and most beautiful) countries in the world and the challenges that these nations face are very interesting. They all have one thing in common…</p><p><strong>Culture</strong></p><p>Non-technical considerations like culture is a an excellent starting point. There are plenty of nations that do not have a regular supply of fresh food, so when the weather and tide are right, now is the time to go fishing. Other minor matters like upgrading a telephone network or fixing a broken internet connection are not really that important anymore.</p><p>In Europe, decisions are made by roles. The CEO has decided this and the CTO has decided that. In many of the island nations, someone “important” makes the decision. Although the CEO has committed to a particular action, someone that probably doesn’t even work for the Telco has said “no”. That person could be the village chief. And then regardless of what the CEO has promised, the answer is still “no”.</p><p><strong>Finance</strong></p><p>Some island nations are heavily dependent on foreign aid. CAPEX aid is sometimes funded but OPEX aid is rarely funded. Before buying the new technology platforms, the vendor is their best friend. However, after making the purchase, the Telco operators face the challenge of maintaining the new technology platforms – and after the expiry of the guarantee, without too much support from the vendor.</p><p><strong>Expertise</strong></p><p>Technicians working for small island nations are very clever people. They are clever because they have to be. If something goes wrong, no matter what, they need to fix it. There is nobody else. The technicians are “Jack of all Trades” - they cover analogue home telephones to satellite earth stations and everything in between.</p><p><strong>Reliance on Vendors</strong></p><p>Operators are heavily reliant on vendors to the extent where vendors are permitted to influence their business decisions. Small network vendors have been known to discourage operators from engaging in roaming for business reasons, but in reality, only because their core network didn’t support the service.</p><p><strong>Marketing </strong></p><p>There is no traffic model so customer behaviour is unknown and network dimensioning becomes guess work. There is no budget for a marketing plan or for fancy traffic measuring tools. Consequently there is no correlation between any marketing plan and a technology roadmap. This makes creating an effective RFP (Request for Proposal) just about impossible. Operators are forced to rely on expensive expatriate consultants, some of whom are selected by the aid agencies instead of the Telco’s themselves, but who at the end of the day, face the same challenges as the operator.</p><p><strong>Project Management</strong></p><p>Structured PM methodology such as PRINCE2 and PMP is rarely used because it has not been adapted to the local culture and therefore is perceived not to work.</p><p>Network Integration</p><p>Lack of records for transmission, power, site, environmental, LAN, billing, etc, making network integration with 4G and 5G both difficult, drawn out and expensive. In addition, the state of the current architecture and its suitability for use in network integration activities is often unknown. Network resources are unable to be tested due to a lack of tools e.g. power level meters for optical fibers etc. These tools are expensive, are regarded as OPEX by the aid agencies and therefore do get purchased. Enabling VoLTE due to handset manufacturer requirements is another very common problem when big handset manufacturers like Apple don’t even know the name of some of the small island Telco’s.</p><p><strong>Business Integration</strong></p><p>Small island nations face some of the worst natural disasters on the planet in the form of hurricanes, earthquakes and floods. Very often the networks do not have the correct level of redundancy on transmission sections or equipment. There is seldom a decent disaster recovery strategy in place.</p><p><strong>Logistics</strong></p><p>Access to the majority of these small island nations is a major challenge in itself. Some islands do not even have an airport. Those that do are very small and consequently can only cater for small aircraft carrying mainly passengers. Shipping equipment to these islands is a very lengthy task as well as being extremely<br />expensive.</p><p><strong>Common Theme</strong></p><p>So what is the common theme? It’s money. More specifically the difference between CAPEX and OPEX. CAPEX is relatively not so difficult to secure, however to secure OPEX is a big challenge.</p><p>With new technology and new equipment but no funds to support it, and no funds to support the business operationally, it is no wonder that the island nations face the issues that they do.</p><p>It’s like being given a car but not having enough money to buy petrol.</p><p>As vendors, consultants, satellite/cable service providers and other international telco professionals, who are interested in these fascinating island nations, what can we do to help to somehow change this situation?</p><p> </p>
KR Expert - Henry Dijkstra
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