BitDepth#922 - February 04

TSTT introduces its first Gigabit Community to a gated housing project in Chaguanas.
The well-connected home
TSTT’s Damian Ali, right, explains the health monitoring system (foreground) installed in a room at the model house of Legacy Housing Development to Minister of Public Utilities Nizam Baksh, left, and TSTT chairman Everard Snaggs. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

Last Wednesday, TSTT launched its Gigabit Community Project, which combines a pilot programme and research initiative that puts a fully symmetrical gigabit connection into upscale residential households at Legacy Housing Development in Chaguanas.

It’s a bold move, but one that the company is handling with measured language. Despite the bold declaration by TSTT’s chairman, Everald Snaggs that “gigabit capacity development throughout communities in Trinidad and Tobago is an area of major focus for us at TSTT,” the company’s officers explain the project in more moderate terms.

In terms of infrastructure, 10,000 homes in T&T are ready for the direct fibre optic connections that gigabit connectivity requires, though the company noted that having the cabling available doesn’t guarantee that gigabit speeds will always be possible on every fibre optic connection.

A gigabit connection runs at 1,000 megabits, or ten times the speed of the fastest current connection in T&T. It’s also the first connection to be promoted as symmetrical, which means that upload speeds are supposed to be as fast as downloads.

The first 10,000 homes are mostly in the northwest of the island, but 30 percent of the connections run to BelAir in South Trinidad and Orchid Gardens in Central Trinidad.
One factor governing gigabit connectivity will be the presence of Calix nodes at the telephone exchange. All of the company’s current exchanges are compatible with the technology; part of the infrastructure upgrades that the company has been pursuing over the last four years.

TSTT hopes to have 40,000 homes ready for fibre optic connections by the end of 2014.
Legacy Housing got the nod for the pilot project at least partly because it was under construction and at the launch, still was, with concrete being poured at several sites within the development while nattily clad guests made their way to the model home that serves as the proving ground for the technology deployment.

That allowed TSTT’s technical teams ready access to the underground ducting on the site and the homes, built with future technology in mind, proved very easy to wire.
Underground ducting is best practice for a fibre optic deployment and HDC developments are compliant. TSTT hopes to have discussions with developers working on current sites to win space in their duct pipes.

Tobago won’t be left out of the development loop either. A new fibre optic cable link to the island was laid three years ago, and the company is evaluating sites there to establish another gigabit community.
Gigabit communities are a useful developmental benchmark for nations catching up with the global pace of broadband deployment, but they are not the only one. A nation’s capacity to participate in digital networks is better measured by the number of connections per capita that run to 10 megabits or better.

In his address last week, George Hill described the project as a first in not just Trinidad and Tobago, but also in the English-speaking Caribbean.
It’s all part of TSTT’s new five-year strategic plan, one pillar of which is the provision of broadband service to 95 per cent of the population.

“We have a number of tools and pipelines through which we can provide that,” said TSTT’s acting CEO George Hill, “and a gigabit Internet connection is just one of them.”

Of the Legacy Housing pilot project, Hill noted that it’s “both a trial and a partnership in understanding the product.”
“We will design packages to suit lifestyles as this project helps us to understand better how customers make use of the capacity.”

The project will run for at least six months.
“TSTT had a leading role in telecommunications in the region,” Hill said, “and we want to get back to that as soon as possible.”

Related: Guardian Business news report on "
The Gigabit Community."
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