My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: January 2018

Saturday, January 27, 2018

How NWC Prepaid Water means Digital Water Meters, Rainwater Harvesting Legislation on the horizon

Jamaicans, get ready for prepaid water.

The NWC (National Water Commission) in their push to tackle illegal connections and outstanding debt, plans to introduce prepaid water in 2018 as reported in the article “Prepaid Water Could Be Coming This Year”, published Tuesday January 9, 2018 by Jerome Reynolds, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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This bit of info was revealed during an interview with Corporate Public Relations Manager at the NWC (National Water Commission) Charles Buchanan Power Talk on Power 106 FM on Tuesday January 9, 2018. This is being considered in light of the following facts relating to NWC customers:

1.      NWC has 450,000 paying customers
2.      125,000 accounts are currently disconnected because of outstanding water bills

To translate that in monetary terms:

1.      JA$20 billion is currently owed to the NWC by customers
2.      Majority of the debt is in arrears for more than 90 days
3.      25% of the arrears is owed by customers who have been disconnected for unpaid bills

This may be an extension of a previous NWC initiative to launch Prepaid water based on Water tanks as detailed in the article “NWC Looking into Prepaid Water Tank Programme”, published February 28, 2014 By Rodger Hutchinson, The Jamaica Information Service. Several factors are being considered, such as the type of customer who would benefit from prepaid water.

So how will this be achieved?

NWC and Prepaid Water - Digital Water Meters, Rainwater Harvesting Legislation on the horizon

Since prepaid water would require more accurate billing, it is also an indication of the coming of Digital Water meters as long predicted in my blog article entitled “Why NWC Digital Water Meters means Water Rate Increase coming in 2016”.

This is part of the NWC's plan to reduce the impact of non-revenue water on their system as noted in “Gov’t To Reduce Non-Revenue Water”, published Friday September 22, 2017, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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If Digital Water meters are coming, further legislation for the introduction of Rainwater Harvesting may be in the works as predicted in my blog article entitled “How Rainwater Harvesting Bill means Rainwater Net Billing to end NWC's Water monopoly”. 

Not only would more accurate Digital Meters reduce water losses, it may also make it easier for third-party water providers to enter the market, as explained in my blog article entitled “How NWC’s Water Conservation in Drought 2016 means Rainwater Harvesting with Digital Meters”.

Competition in the water sector is always good; expecting that Prepaid Water will mean more water companies and possibly lower water bills!!!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

How Digicel is funding Deep Blue Cable US$960 million 12,000km Fiber Optic Network in the Caribbean

“Deep Blue Cable has great confidence in TE SubCom and its ability to build a state-of-the-art sub-sea cable system that will provide long overdue advanced connectivity across the Caribbean islands and to the Americas”

CEO of Deep Blue Cable, Stephen Scott, in a press release.

Looks like the fibre-optic cable network monopoly is being broken in the Caribbean. More interestingly, Digicel may be behind this push!!!

Deep Blue Cable, a company formed and located in St Lucia is the latest entrant into the Caribbean with an aim to interconnect all of the Caribbean islands as reported in the article “New Sub-Sea Cable Network To Dock In Jamaica En Route To Miami”, published Friday August 11, 2017 by Steven Jackson, The Jamaica Gleaner

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Deep Blue Cable, a North American-led company formed in St Lucia, aims to break the fibre optic monopoly by the two carriers in the region; Digicel Group and Cable & Wireless Communications. They're partnering with TE SubCom, a subsidiary of TE Connectivity, to build out their fiber optic ring to interconnect some 12 Caribbean countries.

They plan to compete with the two carriers by offering:

1.      Higher capacity
2.      Lower unit costs
3.      Lower latency

Effectively this will dwarf Digicel's Fiber optic Network that powers their Digicel Cable TV network as described in my Geezam blog article entitled “How Digicel Play will spread the Gospel of Fiber Optic this Christmas”. 

Deep Blue Cable started surveying the Caribbean for the most feasible route in August 2017.

They aim to start installation in September 2018, with plans to start selling service by December 2019. The main markets they plan to enter have the following telecoms market opportunity:

1.      Puerto Rico at US$3-billion
2.      Dominican Republic at US$1.9 billion
3.      Haiti at US$700 million
4.      Trinidad at US$650 million
5.      Jamaica at US$600 million
6.      Cayman Islands at US$150 million
7.      Turks & Caicos at US$50 million

So what are the details of this coming fiber optic offering by Deep Blue Cable?

Deep Blue Cable - A CWC Rival built for a 5G future in the Caribbean

Turns out the Deep Blue Cable, TE SubCom partnership has some interesting details. Here are some interesting facts about Deep Blue's Fiber Optic Deployment:

1.      The Fiber optic rein will be around 12,000km
2.      It will be deployed in two phases
3.      Will consist of eight fibre pairs
4.      May cost US$960 million

This estimated price is based on Digicel Group's reported US$16 million to run a 200 km sub-sea fibre cable from Haiti to connect to an existing one running to the Caribbean. Since Deep Blue's cable is nearly 60 times that length at 12,000km, this will at least cost them at least US$960 million, if you do the math.

TE Subcom clearly is doing most of the heavy-lifting as shown in this video:

Digicel Chairman and CEO Denis O'Brien may be footing this massive buildout, with an aim to launch in 2020 as reported in “Digicel Founder Behind New Telecom - Denis O'Brien Main Shareholder In Deep Blue Cable”, published Wednesday August 16, 2017 by Steven Jackson, The Jamaica Gleaner.

By way of comparison to give you an idea of the scale of this project, here are the stats for CWC and Digicel's Fiber Optic Networks:

1.      CWC's sub-sea fibre optic cable network is 48,000 km
2.      CWC's  terrestrial fibre is 38,000 km of terrestrial fibre
3.      FLOW, the cable company acquired by CWC, had 18,000 km of sub-sea fibre optic cable network
4.      FLOW also has 21,000 km terrestrial fibre
5.      Digicel Group  sub-sea fibre optic cable network is 3,000 km, which it either acquired or built

Each fiber optic pair will have an initial capacity of 6 Tb/s, finally maxing out at 20Tbps per fibre pair upon completion. Phase one will see deployment in 12 Caribbean countries. This includes such notable countries as:

1.      Cayman Islands
2.      Curacao
3.      The Dominican Republic
4.      Haiti
5.      Jamaica
6.      Puerto Rico
7.      Trinidad and Tobago
8.      Turks & Caicos Islands
9.      Florida, USA

With a total of 40 landings in certain selected countries, they are making sure they have connectivity on par with their rivals. For instance, they plan to land their fiber optic cables at five locations in Jamaica as follows:

1.      2 landing in proximity to Kingston
2.      2 landing in proximity to Ocho Rios
3.      1 landing in proximity to Montego Bay

Already, they’ve made some adjustment to their projected Phase 1 outlay and plan to include Colombia and Panama as part of that deployment, pushing back their timeline by a few months as noted in the article “Deep Blue Cable To Extend Network”,  published Friday November 3, 201 by Steven Jackson, The Jamaica Gleaner.  

After interconnecting those 12 Caribbean countries, in Phase 2 they then plan to interconnect some 28 Caribbean countries and then North and South American countries. TE SubCom's vice president of sales, Mike Rieger, was quoted as saying that Deep Blue Cable will, quote: “satisfy not only the current spike in demand for connectivity in developing Caribbean countries, but also future requirements driven by projected growth”.

So December 2019 plans to be an interesting year, as by 2020, the Caribbean may go 5G.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

How Western Union Cash to Bank Program may boost GK MPay Push if BOJ makes it Mandatory

“The service is gaining traction as customers are indicating that they have greater control over how they use their funds. We are finding a growing number of persons showing a preference for accessing cashless options”

Group CEO of GraceKennedy Limited Don Wehby commenting on Western Union in Jamaica 'cash to account' service

Happy New Year dear readers! Do you receive money via Western Union?

If you do, then you'll be happy to know that you can now have the money sent directly to your Bank Account or your GK MPay Account as reported in the article “Western Union Pushes Bank Accounts Transfers For Remittances”, Published, Sunday January 7, 2018, The Jamaica Gleaner

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Western Union in Jamaica is ramping up its campaign to get customers to send remittances directly to bank accounts. This will not only make life a lot more convenient for recipients but make scamming nearly impossible.

This as Electronics Transactions and Bank Accounts require Picture I.D's to be created, making identifying the recipients quite easy as explained in my blog article entitled “How Electronic Transactions in Jamaica can eliminate Hidden Economy via Universal Consumption Taxation”.

This is a long time in coming as Western Union, which is run by GraceKennedy here in Jamaica, had rolled out their 'cash to account' service since 2016 in five (5) other countries:

1.      United State
2.      United Kingdom
3.      India,
4.      Japan
5.      China

There are now fifty (50) countries where Western Union people can have their remittances sent directly to their Bank Accounts. So does this mean an end to standing in line at its retail outlets? Also, could this be the start of a gradual shift toward Mobile money and

Western Union Cash to Bank Program - GraceKennedy's MPay Push may get a boost if BOJ makes it Mandatory

It depends on how Jamaicans respond. However, they may not have much choice eventually.

Jamaicans have been slow to adopt to GraceKennedy's MPay Mobile Wallet for the reasons as listed in my Geezam blog article entitled “How to get Jamaicans to use Quisk, GK MPay for more than just Phone Credit”.

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This latest option allows any Jamaican using Western Union to send their remittances to any bank account, not just NCB. Transfers depend on the following bits of information relating to the recipient:

1.      Country i.e. Jamaica, USA, Canada
2.      Bank of the recipient
3.      Money transfer limits and conditions
4.      Transfer Fees

Please note that Money transfer limits and conditions and Transfer Fees are similar to those that apply to retail stores as laid out in my blog article entitled “How NCB Quisk Compares to CONEC Mobile Wallet as Jamaica goes Cashless”.

Recipients of remittances can have their money sent to their NCB Bank account, a possible herald of the coming of ATM withdrawals I’d originally predicted would happen in 2016 as noted in my blog article entitled “How NCB Mobile Money by AIS and Quisk heralds Mobile phone ATM Withdrawals by December 2016”.

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This is possible once they call Western Union customer service centre (1-800-325-6000) with their money transfer control number as pointed out by Group CEO of GraceKennedy Limited Don Wehby, quote: “For the receiving customer, we also facilitate them being able to have their remittance sent to their bank account with the deposit direct service. A receiver has to be registered for the deposit direct service, after which they have the choice of calling our customer service centre with their money transfer control number and authorising disbursement to their bank account”.

If their NCB is connected to a GK MPay App, they can receive notifications of the remittances arriving via their GK MPay App, once they're on the Internet. Conversion to cash from the GK MPay App is still cumbersome though; if you don't have a Debit Card you STILL have to go to a Western Union outlet to withdraw cash using your GK MPay App.

So this latest move is a push by GraceKennedy to get more Jamaicans interested in GK MPay while allowing transfer of remittance to NCB and other Bank accounts, effectively putting a damper on scamming as explained in my blog article entitled “How Electronic Transactions in Jamaica can eliminate Hidden Economy via Universal Consumption Taxation”.

I suspect that most Jamaicans, who may still distrust the GK MPay App and banks in general, will still want to line up at retail stores; Western Union in Jamaica has to go viral with their Marketing Strategy to get Jamaicans to see this as a viable option.

But if the Government of Jamaica via the BOJ (Bank of Jamaica) makes it mandatory that all Remittances have to go to a Bank account registered with NIDS (National Identification System) , especially when dealing with the Government as predicted in my blog article entitled “How NIDS coming in January 2018 means Electronic Transactions with GOJ to become standard”, we may see the not only the end of scamming....and the rise of GK MPay.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

How Jamaicans can update their Wireless Router firmware for faster Internet Connections

This is 2018!!!

Time to update your Wi-Fi routers as most of the really good ones allow for firmware update within the web interface. In fact, my list of the best Wireless Routers goes like this:

1.      Linksys 
2.      Netgear 
3.      Asus
4.      TP-Link

The process, called “flashing the firmware”, helps a router work better as suggested in this How to video from CNET.

Resetting your router is also an option that fixes many problems as noted in this video.

In the case of the FLOW Jamaica Arris Modem as described in my blog article entitled “How to reset and change your FLOW Jamaica Arris Modem Wireless Network Name and Password

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But sometimes a router reset doesn’t fix the problem. Problems and bugs may still persist requiring that you upgrade your router’s firmware.

So here’s how you do the manual update of your router’s firmware!

How to update your Router – DIY or AUTO Update options

Most will use a web-based interface and the procedure will go something like this:

1.      Download the firmware from the vendor's support website, as a .zip file.
2.      Open this zip file and copy the firmware file out.
3.      Log into the router's web interface by typing in your computer Browser
4.      Enter the login and password. This is usually written on the bottom of the router but it may also be login = admin and password =admin…..or just blank
5.      Navigate to the section where you can update the firmware usually in the Administration, System, Setup, Advance or Tools area.
6.      Click on the button to browse for the new firmware file
7.      Click on Update (or Upload)
8.      Wait for a few minutes for the process to complete

Let the update process run without interruption as if you unplug/turn the router, you might brick it. If in doubt, follow your Network Vendor's instructions on how to flash their router.
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Most routers have their specific instruction set. In this age of paperless, you may either have to download a *.pdf document or watch their YouTube videos in order to do this, if the instructions do not come in the box. Here’s a handy video on speeding up your Wi-Fi Connection that may also be helpful!

Good to note that many routers have the automatic firmware update function; mighty convenient as all you need to do is let the router download the firmware and update by itself.

Sharing is caring so share this with your other friends!!!