A new customer care and payment centre is just the beginning of a number of improvements and advancements planned by TeleBermuda International and Bluewave.
A television service is about to be launched and that will be followed in the new year by a new phone service.
Bluewave’s wireless internet service is delivering “useable internet” for under $100 — which it defines as 25 Mbps. While that is about double the price of similar deals in the US, there are factors that push up costs in Bermuda, and it represents a fairer price than was available in Bermuda two years ago when Bluewave was launched, according to Nick Faries, chief executive officer of TBI and Bluewave.
He spoke with The Royal Gazette as a new TBi and Bluewave customer care and payment centre opened at Washington Mall on Church Street, almost directly across the street from the Hamilton bus terminal. The payment centre was previously located on Victoria Street.
Walter Roban, Minister if Home Affairs, cut the ribbon at the new location yesterday. He said: “It’s always a happy occasion for me when I attend the opening of a new store or business in Bermuda — it indicates people’s confidence in our economy and an expansion of options for the consumer.”
Mr Faries said the central location was chosen because it increased visibility and was accessible for customers.
“We have a lot of seniors who are customers. The proximity to the bus station was really helpful.”
He said a television service that is about to be launched will be offering customers a 90-channel basic plan. There will also be a smaller, local-focused plan for seniors. In addition, he said: “Our goal is to get full service for seniors; that’s internet, television and voice, for around the $100 mark.
“We are a niche, boutique internet company, which is starting to add more products. We are going to be going live with television this month. We will have phone coming in February — corporate and residential services.”
While Bermuda’s telecommunications market is dominated by Digicel and One Communications, Mr Faries is certain there is room for smaller players.
“Our focus is being the small local voice in the telecommunication industry,” he said. “Our strategy is not to directly compete with those guys, but to focus on niche service and support, and to look for unique and new products that provide an immediate benefit to the consumer.”
TBi is a long-established Bermudian provider of voice, internet and managed IT services. However, Bluewave was launched just two years ago, and has been based online with no retail space or traditional advertising.
Bluewave was created by the East End Group which, in partnership with Celeritas Ltd, bought TBi at the start of the year. Mr Faries believes having a physical presence in the heart of Hamilton will be beneficial as Bluewave expands its customer base.
Its internet service is delivered from transmission towers to receivers at customers’ properties. Due to the island’s topography the network does not yet cover the entire island, but by the end of next year it should be available to most residents.
“Bermuda has a lot of hills and a lot of trees. We are at around 50 per cent coverage. We have a campaign going out shortly which is listing all of the streets that we are hitting. People can look up, by parish, and see which streets are on. We’re aiming for 90 per cent coverage by the end of 2019,” Mr Faries said.
Customers who are using the service have expressed favourable opinions, as measured through a questionnaire survey.
“The service and technology are excellent. Gear works well, speeds are really good,” Mr Faries said.
The Bluewave technology can deliver internet speeds up to 400 Mbps, however Mr Faries said customers were generally seeking a service that delivered 15 to 35 Mbps.
“They are looking for good speeds for television, or gaming or whatever they are doing in the household — good Netflix without buffering.”
When Bluewave was launched two years ago it convened focus groups to find out what customers were looking for.
“People told us they wanted good, useable internet for under $100. For the most part they were not happy two years ago because they felt they were getting unusable internet for more than $100.
“We had to go back to the drawing board because we were looking at 50-meg [Mbps], 100-meg and 200-meg plans — not going below 50,” Mr Faries said.
“We [Bluewave] now offer 15-meg for $89; 25-meg is $99 — that’s everything, the entire cost, no contracts and no installation fees.”
Internet service pricing in Bermuda has been a hot topic for many years, and Mr Faries acknowledged that it is more expensive here than in many other places. However, he feels it has improved and become a fairer deal.
“If you go back two years ago, 25-megs was costing on average $259 a month. So in two years we’ve gone down to $99. That’s what we have fulfilled. We said we were going to do good, useable internet for under $100.
“Is that more than the US? Yes it is. But it isn’t outrageously more,” he said, mentioning for comparison a rate of $50 for 50 Mbps in the US.
“We’re about double that. We are not able to buy retail internet and resell it. It has to come over undersea cable — and then you need redundancy, so you need two undersea cables, and it is incredibly expensive compared to what you buy in the US.
“So it is more, but I think it is more fair today than it was two years ago.”
Describing the strength and benefits of TBi and Bluewave, Mr Faries said: “The first thing was to come in with internet that was more useable, and much faster plans, lower prices, and to have very few barriers for customers. We have no contracts, and no installation costs.
“We give you what you pay for, so if you are on a 50-meg plan but you don’t get that, we discount you down to the lower-priced plan.”