News & Events
News & Events
US tourist taps into
local Wi-Fi market |
Written by jamaicaobserver.com |
Sunday, 05 March 2006
It took just a few trips to Jamaica before
Darryl Wehmeyer, a native of Atlanta, Georgia,
came up with a business idea that he believed
had potential for big returns.
As a tourist visiting friends, Wehmeyer was
perturbed by the limited access to the Internet
on the island. Unlike his experience in the
United States, in Jamaica, he was unable to use
the Internet anywhere within a large radius.
Therefore, he decided on establishing a wireless
land network company in Jamaica.
Wehmeyer relocated to Jamaica, and on March 26,
2001, founded Copia Wireless Communications
Limited, a distributor of wireless networks and
voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) products.
A major target market for the company was the
hospitality industry - hotels and hospitals
which lacked such services for patrons. Through
an unlicensed frequency called WiFi (Wireless
Fidelity) which allows users to connect in
public areas called hot spots, Wehmeyer began
participating in this untapped end of Jamaica's
Today, the company boasts such clients as Red
Bones, Cannonball Café, Heather's Garden
Restaurant, D'Roof and Indies. The company also
introduced the first Wi-Fi medical institution
in the Caribbean - the Mandeville Hospital. Now,
Wehmeyer is targeting the residential market,
which he describes as being "under-served".
Through a wireless broadband network, Copia
intends to provide wireless services to all
demographics in Jamaica. Through this wireless
technology, the service will be fully portable,
and thus available "while moving in a car, bus
He believes that the virgin nature of the
Jamaican market makes it more attractive for an
investor than the market of the United States.
"Jamaica has a population of 2.6 million people
but only 500,000 phone lines," notes Wehmeyer.
"The major reason for this disparity is the
traditionally slow recognition by the incumbent
provider, Cable & Wireless (C&W) to realize the
full market potential for consumer services in
the country. A large portion of phone lines are
in the corporate area of Kingston, making the
residential market an underserved market."
The wireless network will also offer VoIP
services as well, an essential element in the
Jamaican telecommunications market, which boasts
a high percentage of long distance phone
"VoIP is probably going to be the driving force
of our product," he says. "Whether they are
using our VoIP or someone else's, it's going to
be one of the main ingredients. We will offer a
voice service option to provide a local phone
number and competitive rates for local and
To date, the company has invested US$2 million
in the technology by Wehmeyer's estimate. It
iscurrently being tested by internal focus
groups, and he is optimistic that he will enjoy
a substantial return on his investment.
However, he says his company has faced
challenges with Jamaica's regulators.
"The largest challenge is working with the
Spectrum Authority in order to allow us to come
up with an affordable price for the market,"
notes Wehmeyer. "It's a new technology, there is
no licence for it that fits with what we want to
do from an economic standpoint that makes
sense.We are not a cellular company, so they
can't charge us as if we are Digicel."