By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas' 16-spot plunge to 65th in global rankings for broadband Internet speed was yesterday branded an "absolute non-issue", despite being critical to its technology hub plans.
Dr Donovan Moxey, who chaired the government-appointed Grand Bahama Technology Hub Steering Committee, told Tribune Business that such assessments were relatively meaningless without knowing how this nation and others were assessed.
He said he was "not concerned about anything" to do with broadband Internet capacity and download speeds, with the infrastructure provided by the likes of Cable Bahamas and the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) deemed "pretty good" in comparison to many rival nations.
Dr Moxey spoke out after Cable.co.uk, an Internet site that compares broadband, TV, mobile and energy providers' performance, ranked The Bahamas 65th out of 200 nations for Internet download speeds.
The so-called "league table", which was covered by prominent UK media houses, said this represented a fall of 16 places for The Bahamas compared to its 49th position in the inaugural rankings issued in 2017.
The rankings, which were based on "the time to download a typical HD movie" of 5GB (Gigabytes), said this took one hour, eight minutes and 38 seconds to accomplish in the Bahamas, giving this nation a download speed of 9.95 Mbps (Megabytes per second).
While the download speed was above the global average, the Cable.co.uk table placed the Bahamas behind rival international financial centres (IFCs) such as the Cayman Islands, Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Singapore and Hong Kong. Caribbean competitors such as Barbados, Turks & Caicos and Trinidad & Tobago also finished ahead.
Dr Moxey yesterday warned against reading too much into such findings as they did not reflect the on-ground experience in the Bahamas. The timing of the survey's publication, though, and associated media coverage is not helpful to efforts to promote Grand Bahama as a 'technology hub', especially since broadband Internet speed/capacity is critical to attracting such an industry.
"That's extremely important," Dr Moxey told Tribune Business of bandwidth capacity. "We have a lot of companies that are going to want as much bandwidth as they can get."
Informed of the Cable.co.uk findings, he responded: "I don't see any issue right now in terms of having bandwidth. The infrastructure we have here in the Bahamas is pretty good infrastructure. We have gigabyte capacity in the network systems in the Bahamas.
"If you talk to the players at BTC, Cable and Aliv they'll tell you capacity-wise it's fine. From a data capacity perspective, the Bahamas has what it needs. I don't see any issue."
Dr Moxey added that Aliv, the mobile provider, is delivering download speeds equivalent to 80 Mbps. He questioned how the download speed "league table" had been compiled, especially the level of network traffic and time of day when it conducted its analysis of the Bahamas - as these were all factors that can impact download speed.
More importantly, the MobileAssist president said it was unclear what network technology was used, and whether it was BTC's slower DSL or faster fibre-to-the-home.
"That's a non-issue. An absolute non-issue," Dr Moxey told Tribune Business of the Cable.co.uk findings. "It all depends on how they tested it and evaluated it. When I see this it's a non-event for me.... I'm not concerned about anything from a bandwidth capacity; there's huge capacity."
A Cable Bahamas source, speaking on condition of anonymity, backed up Dr Moxey's concerns, arguing that the survey's ranking of the Bahamas was "definitely questionable".
Revealing similar concerns, they added: "It depends on what you're measuring and who's measuring, and what level of speed you're actually subscribing to. What measuring and averaging did they do?
"All the broadband networks in the country are as good as anything you can get."
Dr Moxey, meanwhile, told Tribune Business that the Bahamas' only concern in relation to broadband Internet capacity related to the age of some subsea fibre-optic cables that provide such connectivity.
Disclosing that network owners were aware of this issue and preparing to address it, he added: "The only thing that is a potential concern for the Bahamas from a broadband perspective is there are several undersea cables nearing the end of their life.
"They were put in 20 years ago. That's the only thing as far as anything specific to broadband connectivity to the home, the business. From what I was told by members of my committee closer to that, people are looking at this. There are plans to add additional undersea cables."
Dr Moxey said local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were also assessing whether to develop an Internet Exchange Point in the Bahamas, which could ultimately be owned by a consortium. Both ideas were flagged in the Technology Hub Steering Committee's report.
"Each local Internet Service Provider (ISP), and mobile and fixed line telecommunications company, should provide detailed information on their current network capacity and plans for expansion/upgrade over the next five or 10 years," the report urged.
"A number of the key submarine cables in the Bahamas are nearing end-of-life, and the Government needs to engage service providers to ascertain their plans for investing in new cables to replace the older cables."
As for the Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in the Bahamas, the report added: "Each major private sector connectivity provider (ISP) will make an internal decision regarding the possible business case for implementation of an IXP that will be responsible for deterministic routing of local (Bahamas) as well as global Internet traffic.
"The companies will decide if it is in their best interest to establish a consortium of local Internet connectivity and data centre services providers, or if each provider will build and manage IXPs individually. A key question that needs to be answered is what role will URCA play for IXP facilities that may be located in Freeport."