Barbados, with a population of just over a quarter of a million, is one of the most wired countries in the world, when it comes to Internet, telephone infrastructure and telecommunications.
International Telecommunications Union (ITU) figures, in a 2007 report, put Internet usage in Barbados at a high 55 per thousand of population, ahead of countries like Japan and Italy. Only 13 countries in the world had higher ratios.
The story with telephones is not much different. ITU data showed that between 2000 and 2004, Barbados had 124 telephones for every 100 people. That was more than Canada’s 111 or Japan’s 118. The number of active phone lines in 2006 was put at 135,000.
While no Caribbean nation had a higher ratio than Barbados, only Antigua with 119 surpassed the 100 mark. Jamaica had 97, Dominica 88, St Vincent 75; Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago 74 each.
The Barbados phone service dates back to 1884. Now, over 120 years later, it continues to be in forefront of the telecom sector.
Whether you are visiting Barbados for pleasure or business your voice calls between local land lines are free of charge and international calls are available at competitive rates.
The island also enjoys high-speed Internet access via wireless and ADSL with transmission speeds up to 4Mbps. There is also wireless networking in place for hotels, homes and businesses.
In various locations island wide you can find a number of convenient Internet cafes, offering a range of services.
The main Internet Service Providers in Barbados are:
— Cable & Wireless (FLOW)
— Sunbeach Communications
Latest available data indicate that in 2006 Barbados had 237,000 cell phones; that is close to having one cell phone per adult. Blackberry is a leading wireless connectivity tool in Barbados, providing access to a wide range of applications on a single wireless device. It combines software with services to keep you in touch with the people, data and resources.
There are two mobile service providers in Barbados:
— Cable and Wireless
History of Barbados Telecommunications
The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1875, and by 1884, The Barbados Telephone Company had opened for business.
From as early as 1851 cables were being laid between the English Caribbean and the USA, for use in telegraph services. By 1914 technology had moved on so that telephone calls could be placed via a wireless station in Barbados. This new technology threatened the cable companies who had invested heavily in the laying of cables, and so in 1929 the British Government merged the cable and wireless companies, which then became the Cable & Wireless project in 1934.
By 1935 the manual system that operated in Bridgetown, St. Lawrence, Speightstown and St. John was converted to an automatic system, which was housed at a new building in James Street, Bridgetown.
During World War II the need for telecommunications increased and so Barbados developed a high frequency radio facility, which became a key radio relay point in global telecommunications.
By the late 1960’s the demand for telephone service had grown to a point that the automatic exchange in James Street was no longer able to cope and so on the 22nd of October 1968, the then Prime Minister of Barbados, the Right Honorable Errol W. Barrow, officially opened the Windsor Lodge Complex, which is today the head office of Cable & Wireless in Barbados.
In the 1970’s when satellites emerged to aid international communications, Barbados built an earth station at Congor Bay in St. John, and this formed the nucleus for an international telephone-switching centers for, not only Barbados, but much of the English Caribbean.
By 1982 fiber optic cables were introduced in Barbados, again a first for the Caribbean region.
Cellular service came in 1991 and four years later the first Internet Service Providers sprung up.
Although Cable and Wireless (Barbados) Limited continues to have the monopoly on the fixed line market, today there is competition in the cellular and broadband space from Digicel and Sunbeach / TeleBarbados respectively.