Digicel's upgraded network goes live
Digicel Bermuda's island-wide LTE service goes live today, bringing faster upload and download speeds to mobile devices, greater consistency and better quality voice calls.
The data download and upload speeds are expected to be up to ten times faster than those previously available. Smartphone users should notice the improvements when watching streaming videos, or making video calls using apps such as FaceTime, WhatsApp and Skype.
Uploading videos and photographs to social media will also be much speedier.
And it is not all about data speed. Digicel is now using lower frequency spectrum to improve the quality and coverage of voice calls indoors and outdoors, overcoming previous general weaknesses encountered in Bermuda due to the thick stone walls of many buildings and the island's hilly topography.
The majority of Digicel's existing customers will today be able to immediately take advantage of the LTE network, once they have gone through a few steps on their mobile phone.
That step-by-step process is described on Digicel's website, and covers Samsung/Android and Apple iPhone users.
“In terms of enjoying LTE there are a few things that you need. One is a Sim card that is compatible, a compatible device, and a compatible plan,” said Emilie Faulkner-Meek, Digicel's marketing manager.
“We have been giving out LTE Sim cards for about two years now, so a huge majority of our customer base will be able to take advantage of this.”
Digicel now has 47 cell sites in Bermuda, including three high capacity mobile sites being used for the duration of the America's Cup.
The company has spent the past three weeks installing, adjusting and upgrading equipment in order to achieve today's LTE launch.
“We've replaced every single piece of equipment around the island. That's cables, antennas, bases, everything,” said Neil Lupsic, Digicel Bermuda's chief technology officer.
The new network will be better able to provide reliable and consistent data streaming.
Ms Faulkner-Meek said: “Essentially, LTE is superfast data. The difference is going to be in the consumer experience, mainly video quality, video calling, video streaming and even voice calling will be much better.
“It will be faster speeds with more consistency. Things like Instagram and Facebook that now have live feeds will be much clearer and faster — there is no lag time.”
The network strength and coverage has been improved to eliminate dropped calls in busy locations, such as grocery stores.
Mr Lupsic said: “There is improved indoor and outdoor coverage as a result of the spectrum allocation from the regulator. We implemented that at the same time as the LTE additions.”
The extra demand on services expected during the 35th America's Cup, which starts tomorrow, was part of the impetus to achieve the improvements by this month. However, Digicel has been planning its LTE network for Bermuda for six or seven years.
“We've been wanting to do it for a long time for Bermuda,” said Mr Lupsic, explaining there was an involved process to follow, including waiting for the rationalising and allocation of spectrum by the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda before purchasing the equipment needed to create the network.
LTE, which stands for long-term evolution, is a standard for high-speed wireless communication for mobile phones and data terminals. It does not consume more data, but it is likely that users will find themselves using more data as they take advantage of the superior speed for watching streaming video or making video calls.
Digicel has created plans aimed at mitigating this and giving benefits back to customers, such as free iMessage, WhatsApp and FaceTime on its new plans.
The company also has ways of notifying customers when their data allocation is running out.
“We recommend that people use apps, such as My Digicel App, to have a look at their data and track it,” said Ms Faulkner-Meek.
America's Cup visitors will be able to enjoy the LTE network if they buy a prepaid plan for their Sim card.
The network stretches beyond the island, reaching 12 miles out to Challenger Banks thanks to an antenna on the island directed towards the popular fishing area. That will allow sailors and fishermen to access the superfast data and improved voice call network.
Digicel's voice calls will continue to be carried on a 3G network which has been enhanced for better performance.
The company's LTE network is part of a $60 million investment in its telecommunications infrastructure on the island, which includes the ongoing instalment of fibre optic internet cabling directly to homes and businesses.
The resources that have been brought in to bolster and improve Digicel's services ahead of the America's Cup, such as the three high capacity mobile cell sites, are here to stay. The mobile sites are likely to be used for future events, such as Bermuda Day, Cup Match and the World Rugby Classic.
For more information on Digicel's new LTE plans, customers should visit https://www.digicelgroup.com/bm/en/mobile/plans-and-services/services/lte.html