Chief executive officer of majority state-owned Telecommunications Service of T&T (TSTT), Lisa Agard, disclosed yesterday that regional telecommunication providers are planning to hold negotiations with global tech heavyweights such as Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix and Meta to help the Caribbean operators to offset the cost of providing broadband data.
She said the entity is lobbying these entities through the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and hopefully Caricom to bring this to fruition
Agard made the comments while delivering the opening remarks at a workshop for media practitioners titled, “Covering technology and the changing landscape,” hosted by bmobile and Trinidad & Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) on Tuesday.
Agard said TSTT recently hired a Spanish firm to examine how much of its network resources are being used by the global technology companies.
“And by big tech I’m talking about the Meta, the TikToks, the Netflix and all of them....they use 67 per cent of our network assets. Six of the big tech operators utilise collectively 67 per cent of our network assets and they make zero contribution to the development of those assets, yet we are being asked to continuously invest” she explained.
She said in the Caribbean TSTT invests about US$500 million annually.
Across the Caribbean, Agard added, there’s “no business case for 5G” if there are no returns.
“There’s no point. We are going to launch, probably in a couple months where we are going to do one 5G site at Pheonix Park, but it’s a fixed wireless 5G site...forget ubiquitous 5G deployment, there’s just no money for it.
“Part of what we are advocating with policymakers across the region is ‘do you want the Caribbean to be part of that infrastructure growth for the next ten years or do you want it to be a lost decade,” Agard added.
Meanwhile, she also noted as the world changes so too has TSTT’s business model.
Agard said this included aligning cost with revenue declines, noting that the company made very significant changes over the past two and a half years, including cutting back on staff cost and “scrubbing everything” deeply in the organisation.
She said the challenge posed by increased demand for bandwidth was just one of several faced by TSTT in the last 18 months.
TSTT also underwent a massive restructuring exercise last July, which was influenced by massive dips in revenue which prompted a change in the company’s business model and major adjustments to its operating expenses.
TSTT retrenched 468 of its workers last year as part of a major restructuring plan. In 2018, some 700 workers were retrenched as TSTT complained of a $478 million financial loss and “high employee costs.”
Agard revealed non-staff adjustments saw the company remove about $160 million in operating costs while the restructuring has had a significant impact in terms of operational costs by about $12 million dollars a month and it will increase slightly over time.
Referring again to the cost of broadband, Agard said these moves could only work out in the long run if the company is able to find viable revenue streams.
To pivot into new areas TSTT continues to explore new areas like fintech, Agard added.