As a rapidly-developing jurisdiction with modern legislation and attractive tax regimes, the Seychelles certainly has the opportunity to become a centre of e-commerce activity. As yet, the Internet has had some direct impact on the conduct of offshore business from the Seychelles, though as with all other aspects of business activity, no one can doubt that this will increase.
Following recommendations made by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Seychelles Government set up an e-commerce task force in 2004, headed by the Telecom Division of the Ministry of Economic Planning that will discuss and propose the implementation of a national e-commerce strategy. This exercise is expected to bring together the economy's main stakeholders to discuss how the Seychelles can adopt a strategy to make use of the Internet as a medium for marketing its national resources, products and services.
Since 2003, competition has been provided by Airtel, a joint venture between the Bharti Group, Emtel, the premier GSM operator in Mauritius, some private investors and the Seychellois Government. Registered as Telecom Seychelles Limited and operating under the brand name of Airtel, the company is licensed to offer comprehensive telecom services including GSM Cellular, PSTN (Fixed Lines), Fax and Data, International Roaming, connectivity to Internet Services and Maritime Telecom Services (INMARSAT).
Airtel provides the whole range of telecom services, from GSM Mobile services, Airtel Prepaid Mobile Cards available at a string of outlets, International Roaming with 140 operators in 61 countries, a host of Value Added Services, Fixed Cellular services and a fast growing Fixed Line network.
The Seychelles' only ISP used to be Atlas, formed by a consortium of the three main computer companies in the Seychelles, Space95, VCS and MBN.
In February 2001 a second Internet Service Provider was established: Kokonet claims to employ state-of-the-art technology and aims to encourage wider use of the Internet in the Seychelles. Kokonet, which is jointly owned by Space 95, Mauritian group Blanche Birger Limited as well as some staff members, is connected to the Internet backbone through a VSAT gateway. Initial bandwidth of 2 Mbps/512 Kbps is being used, more than doubling the bandwidth available to Internet users in the country.
Customers have available a choice of different technologies to link to Kokonet - dial-up, digital leased line and wireless. With dial-up services, there are two digital ISDN lines and a further one has been ordered from Telecom Seychelles (TS). Customers will also have the possibility of accessing the Kokonet network through digital leased line circuits offered by the local telecommunications providers.
In January 2001 ATLAS announced the launch of an internet roaming service. Through ATLAS's local network, the service allows customers to access the Internet via a laptop by using the same ID and password as their home PC. It is of particular advantage to foreigners who wish to communicate with individuals and businesses in the Seychelles but do most of their electronic communications on the move.
To enable ATLAS to offer the service the company got together with i-pass, a major player in the international global virtual network providing people with secure, low-cost access to their corporate networks and Internet from virtually anywhere on the globe. Currently i-pass serves over 160 countries with around 140,000 points of presence (POP). Users can connect to the Seychelles from almost anywhere in the world. With a point-and-click interface, users can input the country they are calling from thus allowing i-pass to link the user to the most convenient ISP to the user's location. In addition, i-pass will provide secure authentication to protect user names and passwords. Those customers using the service outside of the Seychelles will be charged by i-pass through their usual ISPs.
In 2003 the government passed the Interactive Gambling Act, 2003, providing for the licencing and regulation of any internet gambling business carried on in or from Seychelles. The Act conforms to strict international regulatory norms and draws heavily from solid Australian legislation. See Law of Offshore for further details of the legislation.
In February 2004, ATLAS launched "Skyway" a new high-speed broadband wireless internet service. "Skyway" provides high-speed fixed wireless access to homes and businesses on Mahé, Praslin, La Digue, Silhouette, North Island, Ste Anne Island, Cerf Island and other marine park islands.
With speeds ranging from 128Kbps (Kilobytes per second) to 10Mbps (Megabytes per second), this new service will provide downloads that are 50 to 500 times faster than current dial-up modems.
Atlas can also boast to be the first provider of wireless “hotspots” in Seychelles with deployment of the technology at the Wharf Hotel & Marina and at the Seychelles International Airport.
In December 2005, Cable and Wireless announced that it had reached agreement for the purchase of Atlas. The transaction was completed on 31 December 2005. Speaking after the signing ceremony, Cable & Wireless Seychelles Chief Executive Officer, Usman Saadat, said: "The acquisition of Atlas is a further step towards offering customers in the Seychelles a full range of services backed by the expertise of Cable & Wireless."
In July 2009, Cable and Wireless launched their Web2SMS online service, the first in the Seychelles, enabling users to send SMS messages from their computer to any mobile in the world.
In August 2012, Cable and Wireless switched all its fixed line broadband and mobile internet customers from satellite data transmission to the SEAS (Seychelles East Africa System) of undersea fibre optic cable.
“Our country-wide fibre broadband network, supported by the new SEAS cable, represents a momentous step forward for telecoms in the Seychelles,” said Charles Hammond, CEO of Cable & Wireless Seychelles, in a press release. “It will support the rapid growth in demand for fixed and mobile broadband usage across the islands as well as providing better telecom connections for businesses both locally and internationally.”
In October 2005, the Seychelles awarded its first voiceover internet protocol (VoIP) licence to cable television entertainment service provider Intelvision, as the government advanced its policy of liberalisation in the telecoms sector.
According to the Seychelles Department of Information Technology and Communications, Intelvision, through its cable television network, will be able to offer internet and telephone services. The firm was also issued with an Internet Service Provider's licence, bringing the number of ISPs in the jurisdiction to three.
The department aimed for 25% of all homes to own a computer in 2010 and to have more than 6,000 internet subscribers nationally. By June, 2011, statistics compiled by Internet World Stats, showed that there were 33,900 internet users, representing a country penetration of 38%.