The Barbadian home telephone, the humble landline, symbol of basic electronic communication here for 135 years appears set to survive through the era of the smartphone and broadband internet, according to a telephone company executive.
According to Country Manager of FLOW Barbados, Jenson Sylvester, Barbadians continue to see their landline as lifeline to friends and relatives overseas.
FLOW, the current owners of the legacy of the Barbados Telephone Company, which issued its first fixed-line service in 1884, had at last estimate in September 2018 around 74,000 fixed-line subscribers. FLOW provides over 600,000 landlines across its markets in the Caribbean and Latin America.
It was not immediately clear what percentage of Barbadians landlines was either residential or commercial.
“Landline in Barbados is slightly different to the rest of the Caribbean. Barbadians like to have that landline,” Sylvester told journalists at the Hilton Resort on Thursday, as he announced the introduction of two new triple-play packages of TV, broadband and landline.
Under the two new bundles – Upward Plan and Onward Plan – customers will receive 500 and 1,000 international landline minutes per month, respectively.
Sylvester said while it was no secret that landline business and services were shrinking globally, Barbadians generally still wanted to keep theirs.
He said: “I think people are naturally moving towards mobile. That is not just here, that is not just the Caribbean. That is all over the world. That is just how it is.
“Particularly in Barbados, while we have ensured that we focus on international landline minutes in our packages, the feedback we get from Barbadians is that they want that landline. They want to have those minutes. They want to be able to call [family members overseas]. So as Barbadians, as Caribbean people, we intrinsically understand that and that is the feedback that we got.”
Sylvester said while he could not give details, he was aware that Government’s ongoing restructuring exercise was affecting some Flow Barbados customers based on their spending patterns.
But he did not say what areas of the business were most affected.
FLOW Barbados Director of Customer Experience, Justin Inniss, disclosed that the company was in the process of removing
most of the telephone booths across the country.
He could not immediately say how many of them were still existing or even in working condition, but said the number had dropped significantly from well over 1,000.
“We have been looking at that business, to be honest. I think that business is almost gone. There are actually very few phone booths that are used by customers. So we have been actually removing them from around the country,” Inniss revealed.
But, he said there were still several booths that were being used and therefore would remain.
“Today we have gone from having well over 1,000 phone booths and what we are doing is looking at where they are being used. If they are being used by customers they stay. If they are in locations that nobody uses them then they just mainly become an obstruction so we want to get them out of the way,” he said.