FLOW was formerly a brand of Columbus Communications providing residential and business telephone, Internet and television services across the Caribbean. The brand was used by individual companies operating in each country, registered under the Columbus Communications name.
Cable & Wireless Communications however, purchased Columbus Communications in 2014, and began to replace its existing LIME-branded services under the FLOW brand beginning in July 2015 (in Barbados).
FLOW is now the consumer-facing brand for CWC's operations in the Caribbean in Barbados, Jamaica, The Cayman Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Montserrat, Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Anguilla, Curaçao, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the British Virgin Islands.
Following FLOW's parent company, Cable & Wireless Communications' acquisition by Liberty Global, FLOW (and its sister companies, BTC (Bahamas), +Movil in Panama and Cable and Wireless Seychelles) joined the brands VTR and Liberty Cablevision in Puerto Rico forming LiLAC, Liberty Global's Latin American and Caribbean Group. FLOW also joined the ranks of European cable and internet leviathans such as Virgin Media UK and Ireland, UPC Cablecom and Ziggo, all also owned by Liberty Global.
Every region in which FLOW operates a mobile network descended from the former LIME brand. FLOW uses the GSM standard for 2G which accessible on 850 & 1900 MHz. It provides data connectivity exclusively using GPRS & EDGE. All FLOW markets have extensive GSM coverage.
FLOW also operates 3G networks which began deployment when the company (at the time named LIME) launched their first 3G network in Jamaica on June 22, 2009. Its launch was seen as a response to America Movil's Jamaican operation, Claro Jamaica's islandwide 3G offering. The company, however, decided to focus its 3G offering in the cities of Kingston, Montego Bay and the town of Ocho Rios.
Soon after, CWC on October 6, 2011, announced the launch of a '4G' HSPA+ network in the Cayman Islands and plans to launch HSPA+ networks in the Bahamas (in their BTC Bahamas business unit) and LIME Barbados. HSPA+ networks were also launched in limited availability in markets such as Jamaica, where upgraded towers were limited to as well as termed as '4G Experience Centres'. These centres were located in New Kingston business district, Portmore Mall (and its environs) and the Fairview Town Centre in Bogue, Montego Bay. '4G Experience Centres' were introduced in almost every LIME market but they did little to inhibit churn from main competitor, Digicel, and their widely available HSPA+ offerings in most of their markets. In 2014, after former Centrica chief executive, Phil Bentley took the helm of Cable & Wireless Communications, the company announced a $250 million USD investment programme nicknamed 'Project Marlin', aimed at improving CWC's mobile and fixed-line networks. The project would involve a total capital expenditure of $1.07 billion USD at the end of its 3-year run in March 2017. The plan began with an announcement of an islandwide HSPA+ network in Jamaica in March 2014 (which concluded deployment in November 2015). This was crucial to the company's turnaround plan as their competitor, Digicel Jamaica, had gone nationwide with their HSPA+ & DC-HSDPA network since 2012. HSPA & HSPA+ network rollouts in all their other markets concluded in 2015. FLOW also has island-wide HSPA+ coverage in all of its markets.
According to FLOW, markets that are not yet slated for LTE will see upgrades to DC-HSDPA (which sees speeds up to 42 Mbit/s on the downlink). For example, in May 2016, FLOW Jamaica upgraded their network (via a software update on their Ericsson equipment) to support Dual Carrier HSDPA (DC-HSDPA) on their 1900 MHz spectrum in the Kingston Metropolitan Area before going live with LTE in December. Customers were able to see speeds of up to 30 Mbit/s in real world use over the DC-HSDPA network, though not as penetrative as rival, Digicel, and their DC-HSDPA network on 850 MHz. FLOW is also still continuing with HSPA+ rollouts in markets with much faster data networks deployed like Jamaica where the company announced that it is keeping up with the pace of demand and will be rolling out new '4G' sites in 2017 to 200+ communities nationwide. The company has committed to making HSPA+ the base layer for the network, upgrading all remaining HSDPA 3.8 Mbit/s and 7.2 Mbit/s sites.
FLOW's 3G network still forms the basis of its mobile offering, especially in markets where it can extend much further than their LTE network currently can. Their 3G network is also crucial in providing voice services for LTE customers in the absence of a VoLTE solution being deployed in any of FLOW's LTE markets.
In Jamaica, FLOW's largest market, the network covers around 2.8 million people and according to the Office of Utilities Regulations (OUR), serves 1 million mobile subscribers (or about ~3.5x the population of Barbados). According to internal company counting policies (in accordance with Liberty Global's counting policy), FLOW Jamaica had 886,200 mobile subscribers in August 2016 and now, as of August 8, 2017, has 933,900 mobile subscribers of which 914,900 are prepaid subscribers. This is CWC's second largest market, with Panama being the largest (with 2 million mobile subscribers; C&W Panama is the market leader in Panama).
FLOW operates LTE networks in all of their major markets, with plans to eventually expand it to all its markets.
'Project Marlin' also involved the launch and build out of LTE networks across the company's most competitive markets. CWC's Caymanian business unit (then named LIME Cayman) initially launched their first LTE network on December 10, 2013 and, received certification from Apple for the use of the iPhone on the network on May 16, 2014. The network initially launched with 100% coverage across the Cayman Islands on LTE Band 17 (700 MHz). The network was followed by, days after, Digicel launching their own LTE network, on Band 3 (1800 MHz), offering twice the speed offered by LIME's network.
In August 2016, FLOW became one of 8 carriers in North America (others being AT&T, T-Mobile USA, Verizon, Sprint, Rogers, Telus and Bell) and the first Caribbean operator to, after additional network upgrades, have rolled out an LTE-A network, followed by Orange in the French West Indies and the Dominican Republic. The LTE-A network adds a 5 MHz LTE channel on Band 2 (1900 MHz), found in the busy areas within the city of George Town, making a device able to access 2 Carrier Aggregation (2CA) able to access speeds of up to 112 Mbit/s (theoretical).
On August 17, 2017, FLOW's parent company announced that it had completed a Gigabit LTE network trial in Antigua and Barbuda in partnership with Ericsson. The LTE solution tested leveraged network technology such as carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output), and higher order modulation (256-QAM) that maximize data speeds for wireless broadband subscribers. The company plans to deploy this network solution in Antigua & Barbuda, making it one of the first countries in the world having access to Gigabit LTE speeds. CWC is also in the middle of LTE deployments in other markets like Jamaica, heightening the possibility of other Gigabit LTE deployments in other Caribbean countries. A contemporaneous lab trial with Verizon, Qualcomm and Ericsson was also ongoing wherein they exceeded the Gigabit barrier, coming up with their own commercial silicon and network infrastructure producing speeds of up to 1.07 Gbit/s on the downlink.
FLOW launched an LTE network in the British Virgin Islands on November 17, 2016. The network launched with LTE coverage available across all of the islands, LTE-A is available in Road Town, Spanish Town, Tortola, Spanish Island and Beef Island with speeds up to 100 Mbit/s.
The network's plans for LTE upgrades (though spoken about by then Managing Director of C&W Jamaica, now President of C&W Caribbean, Garfield Sinclair since as early as November 2015 in a livestream) were officially announced on January 17, 2016, where the company announced in a press release that it would be rolling out an LTE network in Jamaica. The network was initially planned to be rolled out in the high traffic areas within in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (consisting of the city of Kingston and its adjacent suburbs in Portmore, St. Catherine and the parish of St. Andrew) and on the North Coast such as in the resort city of Montego Bay and the resort town of Ocho Rios). The company was, however, countered by its competitor, Digicel Jamaica, which launched its LTE network on June 9, 2016, in Kingston and a portion of Montego Bay. FLOW, in July of said year, announced that it had applied to the Spectrum Management Authority (SMA) for additional LTE spectrum to provide a 'faster service'. FLOW subsequently acquired AWS-1 Blocks D and E to buttress their pre-existing Block F spectrum. The company then, in December 2016, went live with an initial 12 LTE cell sites in the Kingston Metropolitan Area. According to FLOW Jamaica's former Managing Director, Garfield Sinclair, the company's new parent, Liberty Global is focused on mobile data (as well as broadband penetration), now evidenced by the majority of their handsets available for sale (at FLOW Jamaica dealer stores & flagship stores) being at least Category 4 LTE capable.
On August 20, 2017, the company announced that it was launching an additional 144 LTE sites inclusive of the entirety of Jamaica's second city, Montego Bay, as well as major towns such as Ocho Rios and Mandeville by October 2017, making FLOW the operator with the largest LTE footprint in the country despite having a late start to deployment. FLOW also expanded coverage in the Kingston Metro Area, upgrading sites in the township of Portmore and the major town of Spanish Town, which went on-air in October. This effort was a part of a near 200 LTE site rollout across the island, availing the major towns and cities in Jamaica with LTE coverage by the end of 2017, with the goal of achieveing comprehensive coverage by 2018..
In January 2018, the network announced that it had deployed over 170 LTE sites across the island.
The network currently resides on 20 MHz of AWS (1700/2100 MHz) spectrum, availing customers with speeds of up to 150 Mbit/s on the downlink and 50 Mbit/s on the uplink. According to FLOW, the network will be complemented with low band spectrum soon but a timeline was not given.
After conducting its first test call in October 2016, FLOW Barbados officially launched its LTE network on March 22, 2017. The network at launch had a total of 35 sites active spread over Band 2 and 5 LTE (1900 MHz and 850 MHz respectively), making this FLOW's third LTE-A network deployment.
FLOW launched St. Lucia's first LTE network, with availability in the capital city, Castries, the town of Vieux Fort, home of Hewanorra International Airport to the south of the island and the old capital & tourist town of Soufrière (home to The Pitons, Soufrière Estate and Anse Chastanet) to the west.
The network is available on LTE Band 13 (700 MHz) with a maximum theoretical speed of 75 Mbit/s down and 25 Mbit/s up.
On September 29, 2017, FLOW launched St. Kitts & Nevis' first LTE network, with availability in the capital city, Basseterre, St. Peter’s and Bird Rock in St. Kitts as well as Charlestown in Nevis.
The network is available on LTE Band 13 (700 MHz) with a maximum theoretical speed of 75 Mbit/s down and 25 Mbit/s up.
FLOW currently operates in 2 markets with no wireless offerings, Trinidad and Curaçao. FLOW plans to add a mobile network to their portfolio in Trinidad. The company applied to the governing telecoms body, Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT), in 2014 for a mobile license. To date, however, FLOW has yet to receive a license despite being named as the recipient of the license being tendered by TATT. They plan to build an LTE network as well despite incumbents, bmobile (TSTT) and Digicel, having well established mobile customer bases. FLOW cites its experience in other markets, to include previously launched LTE networks in other markets in addition to newly built networks in Jamaica and Barbados as an impetus to get TATT to issue the license. FLOW's parent company, Cable & Wireless Communications, is a minority shareholder in incumbent TSTT, however, services are not branded as C&W but as bmobile, CWC's former consumer brand from 2003 to 2008 (succeeded by LIME in November 2008 in all markets except Trinidad & Tobago).
Plans for a mobile network in Curaçao are currently unknown at this time.
On July 17, 2017, FLOW's parent company, Cable & Wireless Communications, in collaboration with their parent, Liberty Global, announced that they had conducted a trial of LTE-A Pro technology in Antigua & Barbuda. The company announced that upon installation, Antigua & Barbuda will become the first country in the Caribbean (and wider Latin America) to be availed of an LTE-A Pro network, capable of speeds up to 800 Mbit/s. In October 2017, the company will be testing a 5G prototype network, designed to deliver wireless data connections of around 2 - 5 Gbit/s. The testing and deployment is being done in collaboration with long time business partner and supplier, Ericsson.
Based on drive tests carried out by engineering consulting company, MSI Americas, FLOW was rated as the top carrier in the 2 tested countries; Jamaica and Barbados. In Jamaica, FLOW was placed ahead of its competitor in terms of radio frequency quality, 3G throughput, and higher 3G retention. FLOW was also rated the faster mobile network in the country, with users to experience on average, above 3 Mbit/s (downlink) on the HSPA+ network. FLOW Barbados also placed ahead of its competitor there as well in said categories as well.
In 2016, P3 Group, a management consultancy headquartered in Aachen, Germany, conducted benchmarks in 6 FLOW Territories (Antigua & Barbuda, The Cayman Islands, Jamaica (pre-LTE), Montserrat, St. Lucia and Turks and Caicos). The finding of these benchmarks concluded that FLOW networks were on average 90% better than their competitor, Digicel, in terms of call setup, download & upload speed, latency & video streaming (over YouTube). Raw scores showed that FLOW also outranked the competition in voice and data performance at the very least, twice.
|Frequency range||Band number||Protocol||Class||Status||Note(s)|
|850 MHz CLR||5||GSM/EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/LTE||2G/3G/"4G"/4G||Active||Active in all markets; 5 MHz of HSPA+ active in most. Max Speed of 21 Mbit/s. Some markets see DC-HSDPA over 850 MHz with max speeds of over 42 Mbit/s. GSM-850 forms fallback in lack of 3G or '4G' Coverage. Band 5 LTE is used by FLOW Barbados.|
|1900 MHz PCS||2||GSM/EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/LTE||2G/3G/"4G"/4G||Active||Active in all markets. In their Jamaican market, FLOW has HSPA+ active on 1900 MHz. Most areas see a maximum speed of 21 Mbit/s. (high traffic areas in the Kingston metro area see speeds of up to 42 Mbit/s, only accessible to handsets capable of DC-HSDPA - only active on 1900 MHz) Band 2 LTE is used by FLOW BVI, FLOW Barbados and FLOW Cayman. GSM-1900 forms fallback in lack of 3G or '4G' Coverage|
|700 MHz B/C||13/17||LTE/LTE Advanced||4G||Active/In-Deployment||Main LTE Band for FLOW Cayman, FLOW Anguilla, FLOW Turks and Caicos, FLOW St. Lucia, FLOW St. Kitts and Nevis and FLOW British Virgin Islands.|
|1700/2100 MHz AWS||4||LTE/LTE Advanced||4G||Active/In-Deployment||Main LTE Band used for FLOW Antigua & Barbuda and FLOW Jamaica.
FLOW Jamaica has the distinction of being the only Wideband LTE provider in Jamaica. It operates on 20 MHz of Band 4 LTE.
FLOW utilizes different tariffs for every market they operate in. In their Jamaican market, for example, FLOW employs aggressive pricing strategies. FLOW offers prepaid calling rates of $4.99 JMD or $0.04 USD per minute for on-net and off-net calls as well as calls to the United States, Canada and Landlines in the UK through the "Talk-EZ" plan as standard. The rate plan goes even lower to $3.99 JMD or $0.02 USD for Postpaid subscribers and Prepaid subscribers who subscribe to a data plan eligible for FLOW 'MVP' (Maximum Value Plan) i.e. data plans that last for a duration of 7, 15 days.
FLOW's tariffs for roaming are standardized for all postpaid customers in all markets. Prepaid customers across all markets have specialized roaming plans which last for 7, 14 or 30 day durations. Each plan includes a set allotment of data, talk and text in addition to free voicemail and incoming calls. FLOW recently began offering data roaming packages branded as 'TravelPass' which allows subscribers to access 100, 250 or 500 MB of 4G/LTE roaming data for a duration of seven days across 47 countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Ghana & Ireland as well as the entire Caribbean. The company also allows their subscribers to use their local data allotment in any FLOW market they roam on for no additional cost, a feature called 'FLOW Data'.
FLOW's legacy copper network dates back to LIME and Cable and Wireless. At the time of merger, it could support speeds from 512 kbit/s up to 8 Mbit/s for ADSL. Upgrades were undertaken in some markets and they then began to offer broadband up to 48 Mbit/s in places such as Anguilla and The Turks & Caicos Islands (while under the LIME brand) due to upgrading to VDSL2 technology. FLOW is currently undertaking an islandwide VDSL2 upgrade in Jamaica, of which the first phase has concluded and is to end in 2018. This upgrade will afford most subscribers speeds of at least 25 Mbit/s and IPTV capability, reaching farther than the company's HFC offering.
FLOW operates vast and expansive HFC networks in the former Flow (Columbus Communications) markets namely Barbados, Curaçao, Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent. FLOW delivers a large variety of content to their customers from Standard to HD. They all employ the DOCSIS 3.0 standard, which allows them to deliver speeds ranging from 15 Mbit/s up to 300 Mbit/s. (up to 1 Gbit/s in some areas in Trinidad.) FLOW also offers advanced multimedia options such as movie rentals and rewind, pause, and play from beginning through their Horizon service. This can also be found in the Bahamas where BTC Bahamas brands the service as FLOW TV instead. The old Flow was the leading cable provider in markets such as Jamaica and is currently still are the largest in that market and the entire region. FLOW is currently expanding its pay-TV service to all its previously unserved regions to combat the emergence of long time competitor, Digicel, and their new Fibre TV and broadband service, Digicel Play. FLOW, through the purchase of its parent company Cable & Wireless Communications by Liberty Global - a company which was at the forefront of recent cable broadband developments, will in future see its HFC networks using DOCSIS 3.1. This will enable FLOW to offer broadband speeds rivalling the best possible gigabit fibre offerings.
LIME, in 2014, began rolling out a Fiber-to-the-Home network in Barbados. Now complete, the network now offers speeds from 2 Mbit/s to 1 Gbit/s, thanks to an all fiber optic network. They also have a FTTH network in select locations in Jamaica and across all of Grand Cayman as well.
FLOW also operates DEKAL Wireless, a rural Jamaican municipal Wi-Fi network operator, on behalf of Cable and Wireless Communications (which acquired shares in DEKAL after they acquired Columbus Communications).
The company is also a partner with Wikimedia and allows its Prepaid and Postpaid subscribers access to free of charge. Another company they partner with is Deezer, a music streaming service which selected FLOW (then LIME) as their exclusive Caribbean partner. FLOW allows its Prepaid and Postpaid subscribers across all their markets to access the free subscription tier as well as Deezer's premium tier. The company allows payment for the premium tier by either deducting the converted charge (from USD - where applicable) from the attached wireless account (Prepaid) or charging for the service on said wireless account monthly (Postpaid). FLOW also has a music streaming website with curated playlists, powered by Deezer. In Jamaica, FLOW's prepaid subscribers see free allotments of up to 1.2 GB per tariff for free streaming on Deezer. Plans also come with WhatsApp audio calling data, leveraged through the company's partnership with WhatsApp.
FLOW was also Apple's only wireless partner for most of the Anglophonic Caribbean until 2016. The partnership began in June 2011 when CWC acquired wireless partner status with Apple. The company then, through its former consumer brand, LIME, began selling the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS. This partnership happened to coincide with previous Caribbean wireless partner, Claro and its departure from the Jamaican market after merging with Digicel Jamaica. FLOW also sells the iPad and the Apple Watch in some retail outlets. Rival, Digicel, recently obtained wireless partner status with Apple in Jamaica and The Cayman Islands, as a result, FLOW no longer enjoys Apple exclusivity in many other markets across the region.
FLOW offers apps such as FLOW ToGo (allows pay-TV subscribers to access content on the go) and FLOW Football (allows users to listen to matches which CWC has acquired exclusive rights to). FLOW mobile subscribers can also access information about their wireless account by using the MyFLOW self-care app which allows for purchasing a data plan or a data bolt-on, track minutes used, a call's cost and purchase and track a roaming plan's usage. It is available for iOS and Android users in all of their markets.
Recently, the company converged its services into a single platform named FLOW ID. FLOW ID allows subscribers to access exclusive content from FLOW (such as Manchester United matches as per their partnership with the football club, access to the FLOW Sports App and FLOW Rio 2016 Extra) as well as billing, payment, multi-account management and other pertinent functions.
FLOW also offers an airtime loan service called FLOW Lend. FLOW Lend is an app available for iOS and Android which allows prepaid FLOW subscribers to request an airtime advance (loan) for their account. It is a partnership between Cable & Wireless Communications and San Francisco-based tech company, Juvo.
FLOW was also an official broadcaster of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games held in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil for the Caribbean region. The games were broadcast on 3 new FLOW Sports Channels in Full HD, available to all of their pay-TV subscribers for the duration of the games. Mobile and Broadband subscribers were able to access the games on-demand or live using the FLOW Rio 2016 Extra App. The app allowed customers to access any game being played at the time of access in live HD (a feature only for FLOW customers with linked Wireless, Broadband or pay-TV accounts to their FLOW ID) as well as medal counts for the user's selected region.
The old Flow and LIME operated numerous stores in each of their own markets. During the brand redesign phase, CWC commissioned retail design experts, Shikatani Lacroix, to come up with a new look and feel of the brand's stores. The new store format was unveiled at the FLOW Fairview store in Montego Bay, Jamaica on October 17, 2015. To date, the new stores have also been unveiled in Portmore in Jamaica as well as in St. Kitts and Nevis. In future, the brand has plans to offer one-on-one customer service, where the customer would be able to purchase handsets on the spot in addition to its other in-store services.
FLOW invests heavily in the communities in the markets which they have a presence. In Jamaica, they have events such as the FLOW Super Cup (An event fashioned off of the FIFA World Cup), FLOW Skool Aid (an event held at the end of every August to help children get back to school) and other small-scale activities like infrastructural donations (Hospital and School refurbishing) and much more.
The merger of CWC and Columbus caused a stir in the Caribbean as most of the fibre-optic links leaving the region were owned by either CWC or Columbus or both. Many industry oversight committees in the region voiced their disapproval of the merger as well as the company's largest competitor, Digicel which at the time did not own any undersea fiber. The governments of Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados conditionally approved the merger given certain criteria. In countries like Jamaica, however, the merger was approved by their Minister with responsibility for Telecommunications uncontested.
The brand has also been criticized for its Telus-operated contact center in El Salvador. The contact center had been existing under LIME and has been accused of having serious language barrier issues and an inability to sympathize with local issues in some of the brand's markets. The brand has now established a new contact center in Kingston, Jamaica, which will be in full operation by May 2016.