By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Aliv's top executive yesterday hailed its introduction of the latest 4.5G technology as "a regional first", and said: "We've been like an earthquake for the market."
Damian Blackburn, pictured, told Tribune Business that the mobile operator was continuing to "press our foot to the pedal" as it transitions from its start-up/network roll-out phase to focus more on innovation and improving the customer experience.
Speaking after Aliv completed its nationwide infrastructure build-out within the two-year deadline set by its licence and industry regulators, Mr Blackburn said premium Apple and Samsung phone users will now enjoy data speeds of between 50-100 megabytes per second (Mbps) through its introduction of the latest 4.5G technology within the last fortnight.
He pledged that Aliv will "not stand still", with the provider concentrating on the roll-out of its "smart phone App agenda" and newly-launched post-paid mobile services for consumers.
Mr Blackburn said the Bahamas' second mobile operator, with 19 full months of trading behind it, was just over "half-way" towards hitting a 'break even' position - with industry standards suggesting this is typically reached in a company's third year.
He estimated that the company's 110,000 subscribers give it a current market share of 32 per cent, with more than $200 million invested to-date in its network build-out, start-up and customer acquisition.
Yet Mr Blackburn argued that Aliv's biggest achievement to-date was its introduction of competition to a long-standing monopoly, with the company producing "a seismic shift" in consumer choice.
Emphasising that the operator is "not resting on our laurels", he told Tribune Business: "Just in the last couple of weeks we've upgraded the network in New Providence and Grand Bahama with 4.5G, known as LTE (Long Term Evolution) Advanced.
"You can now get speeds in the 50-100 Mbps range if you're using an Apple or Samsung premium phone. That's a regional first. We're not standing still. We're pressing our foot to the pedal to make sure our network stays far superior. That's a huge thing that we've waited for until we were two years in.
"We've moved our focus from rolling out on every island to enhancing the network speed, building on the foundation we have. The next thing we're focusing on is the Smart Phone App Agenda."
Mr Blackburn disclosed that this initiative features the Aliv Driver, an app that provides images and maps for well-known locations and places in the Bahamas, and which can be downloaded from both the Google Play and Apple stores.
The mobile provider has partnered with the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation (AMMC) and Bahamas National Trust on the initiative, which is targeted at both the Bahamian and tourist markets.
The Aliv chief added that it was also working with Google Street View to capture 360-degree images and views of all roads/streets in the Bahamas, so both locals and visitors can "see the actual place you're going to".
"It will take a while to upload all those images, but over the next few months want to get images of every known road in the Bahamas and attraction," Mr Blackburn said.
Aliv's launch in November 2016 broke the Bahamas Telecommunications Company's (BTC) long-standing mobile monopoly, and Mr Blackburn argued that this was where the upstart entrant had made the greatest impact by bringing keener prices, improved services and greater choice for Bahamian consumers.
"I think it's been like an earthquake," he told Tribune Business of Aliv's arrival. "There's been a seismic shift in the way people think around choice in telecommunications services in the Bahamas.
"We've brought a very different culture and experience to the marketplace, and I think the marketplace has responded very favourably so far. We hope we carry on that way. It's been an amazing journey; two years since we got the licence and 19 months of trading since the soft launch in November 2016.
"We keep pushing forward. We're not resting on our laurels; we're tightening our plans and focusing on our next phase - innovation and the customer experience, continually refining our products and services as we go."
Mr Blackburn said Aliv had met the end-June 2018 deadline for completing its nationwide roll-out, launching services in its last location - Ragged Island - last Thursday. The mobile operator now has 232 cellular sites across the Bahamas, with the Aliv chief hailing the completion as "an incredible achievement" given the country's "geographic complexity".
"We've had to overcome many, many challenges, but hats off to the Aliv team for such an incredible achievement," he added. "The engineering team have done an amazing job, and we've delivered what we said we would deliver: A network that has the same quality wherever people in the Bahamas are living."
Mr Blackburn said Aliv had invested around $135 million in the physical build-out of its network infrastructure alone, with start-up and subscriber acquisition costs taking this outlay to well over $200 million.
"We have over 110,000 subscribers now," he added, "which we think gives us 32 per cent market share. We're doing well in the pre-paid market, where we launched the Freedom and Liberty plans from the beginning.
"We're doing well in the corporate market, attracting some major corporates since the introduction of number portability, and we just launched consumer post-paid in the last six weeks, which is a major focus for us now."
Mr Blackburn said Aliv had also been "very successful" with its wireless broadband offering in the Family Islands, adding that the mobile operator was making steady progress towards profitability.
"It's not an exact science," he told Tribune Business, "but we're 19 months into trading now. It's always said you get into break even territory in year three. We're just over half-way through that process now.
"We're happy with the progress on the network side, the customer build side, the nationwide roll-out side and have a full suite of products and services aimed at all segments of the market."