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TelEm Group voices frustration over network interference affecting mobile calls and data sessions.

Technical chief concerned about long-term impact

Pond Island - TelEm Group Chief Technical Officer (CTO) Mr. Eldert Louisa expressed continued frustration with interference to the company’s mobile voice and data networks from French St. Martin and neighbouring islands, saying unless the issues are resolved permanently, satisfactory service to Dutch side customers cannot be guaranteed.

The Technical Director’s observations were expressed to the Head St. Maarten’s telecommunication regulatory body, the Bureau of Telecommunications and Post, Mr. Anthony Carty, during a meeting last Thursday.

During the meeting, Mr. Louisa introduced the BTP to a visiting consulting company that is assisting TelEm Group to identify the various sources of interference, with recommendations on how the company can work around the matter until a permanent solution or agreement regarding frequency assignments between different territories can be put to paper.

“We have requested the regulator’s permission to use two frequencies that the experts have scanned as being clear of interference, but unfortunately, the regulator has informed us that while one of the frequencies is free of interference at the time of the BTP’s own scans, and another partly clear at the time of the BTP scans last week, there is every possibility that interference can return should carriers on the surrounding islands continue to expand their own networks in the future.

In more technical terms, the BTP has confirmed TelCell N.V. is now assigned 20 MHz of spectrum in the 2100 MHz frequency band, which the regulator says is free of interference of PCS systems from both Anguilla and St. Kitts and therefore this UMTS channel can be used islandwide by TelCell.

Regarding the use of a second frequency to further improve the QoS by TelCell, the BTP has also officially confirmed that the frequency is free of interference from St. Kitts, but is affected by PCS signals originating from Anguilla. “As result, BTPSXM recommends that this channel only be used in areas that are shielded by Anguilla by hills,” states the BTP in response to TelEm Group’s frequency use request.

“There is a lot of work involved in adjusting our networks to the requested frequencies and it would be counter-productive to have to face the same issues again each time our neighbouring carriers expand their networks, therefore we are fully supporting the local regulator in their effort to work with their counterpart regulators and governments in these neighbouring islands to find a permanent solution or some type of bi-lateral agreement that would lay down some ground rules to prevent our respective networks from affecting each other,” said Mr. Louisa.

He said Thursday’s meeting was also to express to the local regulator that TelEm Group’s own well advanced plans to install an island-wide LTE/G4 mobile and data network may well be hampered by the uncertainty of a permanent solution to the present network interference issue.

“Our customers are demanding more data services that we intend to bring with a complete LTE network and which requires a frequency spectrum that is not contaminated in any way either now or in the future,” continued Mr. Louisa.

“We want to give the best service we can to our customers, but until we get a permanent solution to the frequency interference issue we will always be left with a grey area of uncertainly and doubt, which is not the ideal position to be in,” continued the Technical Chief.

He said he was heartened at the meeting to learn that the BTP is working diligently behind the scenes with the neighbouring islands and is hopeful some solid results may soon be forthcoming.

Meantime, on another matter, the Technical chief has praised the local regulator for recent announcements that the BTPSXM will be taking steps against French side companies that are illegally providing devices and connections to Wi-Fi service on the Dutch side of the island. According to the BTP this is in direct contravention of the Telecommunications Act, and persons found using such illegal devices will have them confiscated and will also risk prosecution leading to and fine and/or imprisonment.

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