TelEm Group says material shortages causing slowdown in network restoration

TelEm Group says a chronic shortage of telecommunication material in the region is affecting restoration of services to St. Maarten customers following the passage of Hurricane Irma and Maria in September last year.

Five months after the passage of the storms, TelEm Group has restored services where possible using materials in stock and limited materials donated by other telecommunication companies in Holland and in the Caribbean, however much of these supplies have been spent, and the company anticipates it will be another two to three weeks before a bulk of cables and other restoration equipment arrives. Some of the materials needed for the overhead reconstruction will is also due to arrive in the coming days.

TelEm Group Chief Technical Officer, Mr. Eldert Louisa, says he understands the frustration of many TelEm Group customers in a number of areas around the island who have been waiting for many weeks for voice and data connections.

“Wherever we can assist with the limited resources we have we are assisting until our supply of materials come in,” said Mr. Louisa.

He said the company is already making arrangements to employ additional technicians and contractors so that outstanding installations and repairs can be carried out as soon as the necessary materials arrive on the island.

Mr. Louisa said one of the delays in receiving materials is the destruction of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure following the passage of Hurricanes late last year.

“Puerto Rico is a hub for materials coming to St. Maarten and other islands in the Caribbean. Because of the problems there and also because they have been using up the supplies themselves, we and the rest of the Caribbean are having difficulties with our regular transport routes,” explained Mr. Louisa.

He said at other times in the past, TelEm Group has been able to depend on other telecommunication companies on the island and on the nearby islands for spare materials and equipment, but this time around these companies and islands are in need of materials themselves.

“We are all affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, and five months later, the shortage of materials is really starting to affect our early progress in restoring our networks,” said Mr. Louisa.

The CTO is appealing to customers to continue to be patient in the knowledge that the company and staff are doing everything in their power to restore their telecommunication networks to pre-hurricane Irma status as soon as possible.


“We are continuing to register the areas where customers are being affected and we are creating patch up solutions where we can until more permanent solutions can be provided, so customers should continue to report their status to our customer service staff who are keeping records,” said Mr. Louisa.

TelEm Group says it will continue to source materials from wherever it can when available to speed up the process. The company has also meantime taken steps to place more infrastructure underground to be better prepared for future storms.