Hence it is expanding workforce, implementing infrastructure upgrades and spending almost TT $25 million investment in a regional network operating centre (NOC) in Trincity.
Speaking with Business Day earlier this week, Flow’s Managing Director, Brian Collins, said “We sti ll see TT as a huge growth market, regardless of the macro-economic issues that are affecti ng the country at the moment due to the oil crisis.” Referring to Liberty Global’s November 2015 acquisitions, Collins said “TT offers an educated, moti vated workforce, which C&W and now Liberty have seen.” “(Liberty) is going to invest in TT, so we are focused on continuing growth and by extension, helping the country develop its ICT (information and communication technology) network. That means more jobs. Flow’s existing business has about 120 vacancies that we’re actively trying to fi ll because we still see huge growth and huge potential here,” Collins shared.
He told Business Day that meeting growing customer demand more efficiently led Flow to invest “close to TT $25 million in a high-end facility in Trincity” where the ground floor will house technical staff while the top floor will be dedicated to its NOC for the English-speaking Caribbean.
“Because we’ve expanded so greatly in the last two years, we’re bringing the technical group together to support our TT operations. They will be housed on the ground floor of the 29,000 square foot building. Their offices will be opening sometime in the next four weeks while the NOC will open towards the latter half of 2016, around November or December.” Collins said this facility would bring in about 120 jobs, as Trinidad has been designated “a key market within the Caribbean group to house a number of high-end technical jobs.” He added that such an investment shows Flow’s commitment not only to TT but to developing the local ICT industry.
In contrast to Flow’s on-going employment drive, two weeks ago (June 5) President of the Communications Workers Union (CWU), Joseph Remy, warned that Liberty’s take over could lead to another ArcelorMittal.
Earlier this year the steel giant pulled out of TT, leaving hundreds without a job, some with as much as 30 years’ service suddenly facing life without retrenchment benefi ts or pensions.
Asked to comment, Collins told Business Day, “It’s very understandable that the union is going to do what it needs to do to protect its membership and I suppose by extension, TSTT (Telecommunicati ons Services of TT).” “Flow has been in TT for 11 years,” he added, “and in that ti me, we have been growing our employee base. We started with 200 and we now have about 850 employees. We’re also actively recruiting to meet customer needs.” Increased competition from new players, Massy Communicati ons and Digicel Play, was another matter discussed during the interview.
Collins said Flow has “invested heavily” in both its network and content over the last 12 months to not only maintain but to grow its market share.
“We welcome competiion because it makes us re-focus and double our eff orts on giving the best possible customer experience.
We have invested close to TT $30 million in alleviating areas which have congestion, which is a natural thing that happens with network providers, in that consumers are now demanding greater internet speeds. I think Flow is in a very strong position now to say that our fi brerich network is as good as anybody else’s in Trinidad, if not better and we’re going to work incredibly hard to make sure that we keep all of our customers.” Collins noted the company gave customers a free speed upgrade in 2015, “because they were demanding more speed,” and that a network upgrade is currently being undertaken.
“We’ve upgraded ePackages from 10 megabits (mbps) to 15 mbps; a 50 percent increase on our baseline package, and right now we’re offering 30 megabits as our baseline speed. We had a fantastic growth year for broadband last year - we grew by nearly 14 percent. We’re constantly doing upgrades to make sure that we keep our customer experience as good as we can. We value their feedback and we’ve introduced new feedback mechanisms for them to help us better understand how we can improve our service.” Collins also spoke about Flow’s eff orts to help customers affected by recent job losses such as the aforementi oned ArcelorMitt al closure.
“Recognising that it’s tough times for people who may have lost their jobs over the last three to six months, we’ve introduced savings on our products through our ‘My Flow’ bundles, which were introduced in late April. Customers can save about TT $1,300 over the course of a year, depending on the bundle they choose.” Business Day asked Collins how having Liberty as Flow’s new parent company would affect the company and its customers.
Noti ng that Liberty expects Flow to deliver on its pre-existi ng plan for 2016, Collins said while “it’s early days yet, I think any changes will be positive for both Flow and our customers.” He explained that being part of the largest cable company in the world, with almost 28 million subscribers, Flow now has access to more affordable purchase prices on customer equipment such as WiFi modems and WiFi routers.
“The acquisition will also allow us to roll out on-the-go services via mobile devices and Liberty has gone down the route of building their own video on demand platform, similar to Netf lix. As well as gaining access to content; they own 10 percent of ITV in the United Kingdom, are part owners of Lions Gate and Starz in the United States.” “We are hopeful that instead of going in with a couple of million customers to ask for new content to be delivered into the Caribbean, when we go in as part of Liberty with 28 million customers, we’ll have much greater clout to try and bring new and unique content to the Caribbean that we may not have been able to do without this merger,” Collins stated.