My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Why FLOW Jamaica's 4G LTE Upgrade to counter Digicel Play needs islandwide LTE, VDSL and DOCSIS 3.1

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Why FLOW Jamaica's 4G LTE Upgrade to counter Digicel Play needs islandwide LTE, VDSL and DOCSIS 3.1

“These are indeed exciting times for the FLOW brand as we are constantly pushing the boundaries in our bid to meet and exceed the expectations of our customers”

Managing Director of FLOW Jamaica, Garfield Sinclair, commenting on FLOW Jamaica's upgrade plans to 4G LTE

Finally, FLOW Jamaica is seeing the light.

On Sunday January 16th 2016, FLOW Jamaica announced that they're upgrading section of their Transmission Network in anticipation of launching LTE (Long Term Evolution) as reported in the article “FLOW announces upgrade to LTE”, published Sunday, January 17, 2016, The Jamaica Observer.



As expected, the Kingston and St. Andrew area and the tourist resort areas on the North Coast, mainly Montego Bay and Ochi Rios, will get the upgrade to quote Managing Director of FLOW Jamaica, Garfield Sinclair: “Initially we will be rolling out LTE in major high traffic sections of the Kingston metropolitan area and of the North Coast”.

No timeline was given from the upgrade or the cost of the faster Wireless Broadband as well as the planned announcement of new Data Plans for Unlimited Internet access.

Also, the Press release didn't reveal if FLOW Jamaica had plans to launch a FTTH (Fiber to The House) service to rival that of Digicel Play as explained in my blog article entitled “Digicel Play launches FTTH Network - How FLOW Jamaica and Liberty Global Empire Will Strike Back”.

However, we can expect the following speeds:

1.      50 Mbps downlink
2.      5 Mbps uplink

FLOW Jamaica will be rolling out smartphones, Tablets and Wi-Fi Devices capable of processing the higher bandwidth, as most of the current smartphone on the market cannot process or handle 4G speeds.

Personally, I'm still a luddite, as I fear GPS Tracker in smartphones as explained in my blog article entitled “The Reason why I don't like Smartphones - Location Privacy and How to disable Location Services on Android and iOS”.

But this is nice, as it’ll enable the rise of Video Streaming, Remote Work-at-home jobs, Video Calling in Jamaica, and real-time video Streaming, finally giving the RJR Communications Group and other media entities some competition from start up News agencies as predicted in my blog article entitled “Why RJR is considering HDTV - GCML IPO on the NYSE possible as 4G LTE means Content Streaming and 5G Coming”. 

So how will this be implemented exactly?

FLOW Jamaica's 4G LTE Upgrade - Why AWS is not an issue as the bandwidth tun' up

Looks like Liberty Global, the company that purchase CWC (Cable and Wireless Communication) and by extension FLOW Jamaica as explained in my blog article entitled “US$8.2 billion “Liberty Global deal for CWC – How Digicel Play competition means benefits for Jamaica and the Caribbean, is finally upgrading their investment”.

In a press release, FLOW Jamaica said that their LTE would be 10 times faster than their current 4G speeds, which wasn't exactly in every parish up until April 2015 as noted in my blog article entitled “@LIMEJamaica 4G not in Rural Jamaica - Why Summer 2015 in Clarendon will be a @Digicel_Jamaica Zero Summer”. 

FLOW Jamaica's 4G LTE will be using the AWS (Advanced Wireless Services) spectrum in the 1700 Mhz and 2100 MHz band as follows:

1.      12 MHz Band consisting of Spectrum from 1710 MHz to 1722 MHz
2.      12 MHz Band consisting of Spectrum from 2110 MHz to 2122 MHz

The 24 Mhz blocks of spectrum, which was provisioned by the SMA (Spectrum Management Authority) were purchased for US$30 million on a 15 year lease from the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation in April 2014 as reported in my blog article entitled “LIME chooses AWS for 4G LTE – AWS Link Budget difference reduces Shadowing as It’s all about Optimization and Human Nature”. 

This is fairly high bandwidth spectrum as well as high frequency, making it susceptible to some amount of shadowing i.e. signal blockage due to metallic structures. However, given the fact that most Jamaicans can't walk while on their smartphones and the fact that they're usually fixated on their devices and thus immobile, their choice of spectrum is irrelevant.

It really comes down to FLOW Jamaica making sure that their network is properly optimized and enough antennas are installed to provide adequate coverage.

For most data users, once the speed is good enough to stream video, do Video Calling and use periscope and Meerkat Apps as described in my blog article entitled “@sxsw @AppMeerkat vs @Twitter’s @periscopeco – How Periscope submarine-like launch sunk the Meerkat Destroyer”, most Jamaicans will not notice this problem.

My only upset is FLOW Jamaica’s launch plan.

FLOW Jamaica 4G LTE launch plans – Island Launch required, not just tourist towns

FLOW Jamaica plans to launch 4G LTE in Kingston and St. Andrew area and the tourist resort areas on the North Coast, mainly Montego Bay and Ochi Rios.

Thanks to a friend of mine living in St. Ann in an undisclosed location, I’ve confirmed this via some photographs take of FLOW Jamaica's upgrade.


Good to note here that FLOW Jamaica is upgrading their Transmission Network to Fiber Optic to carry the traffic for both 4G LTE, 3G+, GSM Voice, ADSL as well as their POTS (Plain Old Telephone Systems) as explained in my MICO Wars Blog article entitled “FLOW Jamaica Fiber Optic upgrade means FTTH, 4G LTE and Call Center by 2016”.

According to my source in St. Ann, FLOW Jamaica isn't upgrading their ADSL to Fiber Optic, but rather to VDSL (Vectoring Digital Subscriber Line), which is capable of carrying up to 10 Gbps, matching FTTH as explained in my blog article entitled “Why @FlowJamaica may upgrade ADSL to 10 Gbps VDSL G.fast by 2016 with cooled DSLAM”. 

My source also suggests that the original FLOW Broadband service might get a firmware upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1, (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification), a gigabit capable protocol for Cable Broadband systems in a move similar to Comcast in the US of A, who had announced their upgrade in December 2015 as reported in the article “Comcast Launches First DOCSIS 3.1 Network”, published December 26 2015 by David Murphy, PC Magazine.

This all make me a bit upset; what about the rest of Jamaica?

Why islandwide LTE, VDSL and DOCSIS 3.1 modems needed to counter Digicel Play

Since they'd changed to FLOW Jamaica had actually upgraded the cell site in Milk River, Clarendon to also include 4G, making it possible for Milk River residents to access the Internet wirelessly on their smartphones.

We still, however, do not have modems with the ability to re-broadcast the internet connectivity using Wi-Fi to be used with Laptops and Tablets. Also, FLOW Jamaica still has no Data Plans specific to heavy users on such devices, as most of the Data Plans are specific to smartphones.

Certainly we'll be ahead of the rest of the world, even if it is only Kingston, Mobay and Ocho Rios.

FLOW Jamaica needs to make their LTE launch islandwide and include VDSL and DOCSIS 3.1 firmware and hardware to their ADSL and Cable broadband upgrade plans. They also need to include Modems as part of the devices that they sell, as productive Internet usage is best achieved on a Laptop or Desktop computer, not a smartphone.

In fact, it would be good if they sold Laptops as well or even better, partnered with a reseller of Laptops or mini-desktops system such as the Intel NUC line of mini-desktop computers as described in my MICO Wars Blog article entitled “How the Intel Grass Canyon NUC PCs sparks interest in Desktop Computing” to make sure that their customers have the best possible experience when online.

Otherwise as Digicel Play expands and Digicel eventually announces their plans to launch 4G LTE using the new 700 MHz band as explained in my blog article entitled “LIME and Digicel have purchase AWS and 700 MHZ Spectrum for 4G LTE”, FLOW Jamaica will be playing catch up in the eyes and minds of customers once more!

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