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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 14, 2024


If everything goes according to plan, St. Thomas will have a new digital TV system by the end of November. And that’s just the tip of Gordon Ackley’s vision for a wireless world.
Antilles Digital TV will be on the air with some 100 mpeg TV channels next month, thanks to a $24-million capital investment by Wireless World’s parent company, Atlantic Tele-Network Inc.
ATN purchased Antilles Wireless TV in April, a few months before Wireless World became a subsidiary of ATN. Ackley now serves as Wireless World’s CEO; Cornelius Prior is ATN’s chairman and CEO.
The new wireless digital TV will replace the former Antilles operation’s 15 analog channels on St. Thomas, Ackley told members of the Advertising Club of the Virgin Islands on St. Thomas on Tuesday and on St. Croix on Wednesday.
Relative to the Ad Club, Ackley said the wireless television will be able to accommodate local TV commercials and local stations.
St. Thomas will then get more service, followed by St. Croix in about 12 to 18 months. But that will only be the start of Wireless World’s expansion. Once the wireless system is in place, customers throughout the territory will be able to sign up for the TV service, high-speed Internet service and telephone service.
The Internet broadband service, which is available in some areas on St. Thomas, will be 100 times faster than the dial-up telephone connections currently in use, Ackley said.
"Once people get on this thing they never go back" to dial-up, he said. "You’ll be connected 24 hours a day. It becomes more real time."
Transmitters on radio towers on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John, designed to withstand winds of up to 220 mph, will send signals to a small antenna and receiver box in a customer's home. Computers, TV sets and telephones will plug into the unit, about the size of a traditional cable box.
On St. Thomas, the service will be moved along ATN’s fiber-optic cable atop Crown Mountain to AT&T’s America I cable. Until recently, that was the only route for calls heading out of the territory, even from St. Croix. The America I cable terminates in Vero Beach, Fla.
On St. Croix, which will be "pure digital" before St. Thomas-St. John, signals will be sent off-island on AT&T’s America II cable that ATN recently purchased bandwidth on. That cable terminates in Hollywood, Fla.
Ackley pointed out that with development of a communications backbone in the territory, including AT&T's installation of a fiber-optics cable going out to the world from St. Thomas and Global Crossing's fiber-optics system on St. Croix, many of the high costs of communications will be driven down. He said the current "stranglehold" on control of telephone access in the territory will be broken.
The new services will still require "line of sight" with towers throughout the islands, but Ackley said 80 percent of the population would fall into that category.
He said after those with line of sight were up and running, "We'll work on those little pockets" that don't have direct access to the towers.

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