Falklands : FIRS THROWS THE SPOTLIGHT ON JUSTIN McPHEE
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 09.04.2011 (Article Archived on 23.04.2011)
Welcome to “Spotlight.” On today’s programme I will be speaking to Chief Executive of Cable & Wireless in the Falkland Islands, Justin McPhee (JMP). Justin has been in the role over a year now and on today’s programme I will be finding out how he has found it so far.
FIRS THROWS THE SPOTLIGHT ON JUSTIN McPHEE
A report for FIRS by Stacey Bragger (SB) 04/04/11
INTRO: Welcome to “Spotlight.” On today’s programme I will be speaking to Chief Executive of Cable & Wireless in the Falkland Islands, Justin McPhee (JMP). Justin has been in the role over a year now and on today’s programme I will be finding out how he has found it so far.
SB: You are a year into your role as Chief Executive of Cable & Wireless here in the Falklands and how would you describe the first year for you?
JMP: It’s been a very busy year. I have enjoyed the experience. It’s been a very good year for us. We’ve got a very good local team here who have been working very hard over the last 12 months and we’ve seen quite a number of projects reach maturity. We’ve had a huge upgrade in terms of our soft switch, which is the heart of the network here. We also upgraded the Camp Network, which made a huge difference and resolved some of the earlier teething problems with the Camp YMAX network. As I said, we have done a significant bandwidth upgrade. We have been talking to our customers. SeAled PR are currently contacting our customers on our behalf and getting feedback about both about any faults we have with any new services but they are also randomly selecting customers just to get feedback about both the service we provide and what people would like to see in the future. We have made a lot of changes to the tools that people use for average. We have got some good feedback on moving from the daily to an hourly average measurement for use on our website. And we also provided a free bandwidth monitor, which we still have available. I would like to take this opportunity to remind people that it is there if they want to contact our customer services we can provide them with that, which gives them a real-time view of how they are using the internet.
SB: How much scope do you feel THERE IS FOR THE FUTURE OF BANDWIDTH INCREASES?
JMP: Most of the time we monitor very closely and that will continue. There is no technological reason why we can’t increase bandwidth. But because we are a satellite serviced country it is very expensive. There’s clearly a balance between the demand and how that revenue is recovered from customers and how we grow.
SB: The average charges annoy people if you are paying for the Gold Package and if who feel that even with these reductions that’s excessive?
JMP: We are certainly aware that prices are high in the Falklands but that is a factor of actually providing the service here. We do compare ourselves with 39 other Cable & Wireless Businesses around the world. The satellite served on has much higher costs than a larger country which has a fibre optic connection.
SB: Even with the bronze package – even if you just have the modem on it eats up quite a big chunk of the entire package.
JMP: It’s not a big chunk. There is some traffic and we do suggest to people that they turn it off. Very shortly we are going to be announcing an off-peak night-time window where people can use the internet where they can make use of their package but that depends on some technical issues we are just resolving. But we are hoping we will be in a position to announce that in the next few months. So that will affect everybody, effectively a free window in an off-peak period where you can do software updates and downloads where it won’t be charged against normal day time allowances.
SB: people will be able to download films and that during the night?
JMP: There does need to be some work and there is definitely some quality of service issues with everyone trying to do that but we do feel it would benefit people who download to upgrade software and upgrade their computers and reduce their bundled allowance and we see this as an opportunity for people to actually do those things and make use of downloads in what is an off-peak period for us.
SB: There’s also in the monitoring of the service from “Actual Experience” and that seems to have supported Cable & Wireless’ thoughts on internet service?
JMP: It has and we are very pleased with the outcome of that because it reflects the efforts we have been putting into upgrading the network. There’s been an awful lot of work done behind the scenes – a lot of added hours by a team of engineers. I think independent monitoring by Government highlights that we now have a very stable network and I also recognise that we are doing as good as we can, given the constraints of being a satellite connected country. If we had a fibre optic cable things would be very different.
SB: How have you found moving from the Engineering side to the top job here?
JMP: It’s been quite interesting – a huge learning curb for myself. I am pleased I was given the opportunity. I think it reflects Cable & Wireless’ long standing commitment to training local people. And one of the things I have introduced is I have taken over is planning to continue that. I am hoping to sponsor a number of students through further education and offering them work experience and other benefits to actually try and encourage the development of local people into key jobs in Cable & Wireless.
SB: I think Adam McDonnald and David Woods from Cable & Wireless in London visited recently. Was that a routine visit?
JMP: That’s right. It was a routine visit. We are clearly a remote business and they were very keen to come and meet the local team and have a chat with both Government and Customers. I suspect it is something they will do again in the future. But it’s to give them a much better understanding of the issues in the Falklands and the things that we are doing to improve the service.
SB: The telecommunications bill is going to be going through Legislative Assembly soon and are you hoping that once that’s through that other issues like prices can be addressed here?
JMP: Yes. I think that’s certainly been addressed. I think we have been very responsible with the new information provided to Government and MLAs but it’s very clear that we have been quite slow to respond. It had taken much longer than we had anticipated. We have been talking to Government for well over a year about pricing and other issues. So hopefully in the not too distant future that will be the result.
SB: What is Cable & Wireless’ position at the moment regards to saying how much money that you make and are you providing that information to Government?
JMP: We’ve provided a huge amount of information historically and more recently. We have provided information that we actually use ourselves to make our own business internally. So in that respect we have been completely open with the information that we have provided to Government today and that will continue.
SB: in terms of Cable & Wireless and the broadband system, can you make more money from this introduction of broadband from dial-up.
JMP: I think it’s an always changing business. So some lines of business decline and others increase. Clearly people are making more use of broadband and are making less international phone calls. So I think communications is one of those industries where there’s always the continual change of how the company makes its money – not just in our business but in all businesses.
SB: I mean, are there any patterns on what people are using the internet for. Obviously things like facebook and being so easily downloaded?
JMP: I think social networking is very important, given our remoteness. I believe we have the highest number of facebook users per head of population. And that’s clearly part of us living in a remote community. Clearly people use the internet for online shopping and this sort of thing as well as social networking. And I think that will continue to grow. I think the challenge here in such a small population is how we keep costs reasonable whilst providing a good level of service, given very high costs of service provision here.
SB: I think people may have noticed quite a high staff turn-over in the past few years. Has that stabilised recently?
JMP: It has. A couple of years ago we made headlines by having an internal re-structure, which is quite uncommon here in the Falklands. Since then we had a number of natural turn-overs of staff. But I’ve got a very good team that work for me here and they are a credit to the place.
SB: Any future re-structuring plans?
JMP: No. there are no future re-structuring plans.
SB: Have you got any personal ambitions over the next few years in terms of Cable & Wireless development in the Falklands?
JMP: I think we are in a position now where we have stabilised the network. We have had a significant investment in a new network so with the equipment we have here now replaces about 90% of our infrastructure over the last 3 or 4 years. So now we are starting to look forward to what other services we can add on to that. We have recently been looking at – we have offered a video conferencing service which has been used by people recruiting overseas; and the use is we want to see how we can use the network to provide new services. But it is often a challenge given the small customer base that we have here.
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