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Hosting and ISP Facilities

In 1996 the Isle of Man Government obtained permission to use the .im National Top Level Domain (TLD) and has ultimate responsibility for its use. The domain is managed on a daily basis by Advanced Systems Consultants, an Island-based Internet Service Provider. A naming committee consisting of representatives from the Manx Government and local industry considers all domain applications.

There are in fact at least five Internet Service Providers on the Isle of Man, all of whom also offer hosting facilities. The island has quite good connectivity - the Isle of Man is served by both Microwave Radio and Fibre Optic Submarine Cable links to the UK. The cable has five fibre optic pairs capable of carrying some 23,000 simultaneous telephone calls. A Satellite Earth Station also offers digital or analogue links to international destinations including Europe and the USA.

Telecommunications service provided by Manx Telecom, a subsidiary of BT. This monopoly situation has not so far been a major problem for e-commerce development on Man, due to the very advanced facilities BT has to offer; but long term, it could become a concern, especially since Manx Telecom offers its own ISP and hosting services, and could apparently use pricing constraints to limit local competition. The Manx Government has addressed this issue through the installation of an additional fibre-optic cable link to the mainland, operated jointly by the Manx Electricity Authority and the UK's National Grid.

In order to enable 100% broadband coverage, Manx Telecom announced in June 2003 that it was planning to upgrade the six remaining telephone exchanges with ADSL-enabling equipment, in an effort to make the island one of the most attractive high speed internet locations in Europe. Manx telecom had, at that point, already spent around £1 million upgrading the six exchanges at Douglas, Ramsey Castledown, Peel, Port Erin and Marown, before moving on to the remaining facilities at Sulby, Andreas, Laxey, Kirk Michael, and St Johns.

In July 2001, Manx Telecom announced a new range of Internet hosting products aimed at sole traders and small to medium-sized businesses. The range is designed to offer everything necessary to take businesses of this size from an 'entry level' presence on the Internet right up to an e-commerce situation.

Legislation passed in the Isle of Man in October 2003 was designed to allow the Manx Electricity Authority to use its undersea fibre-optic cable network to provide telecommunications services and significantly increase the island’s broadband capabilities.

In January 2004, meanwhile, the Isle of Man Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry unveiled a joint broadband development strategy which the government hoped would give the jurisdiction a competitive edge over its rivals and attract new business to the island.

E-commerce Facilities

There are a number of firms on the Isle of Man which offer e-commerce packages or e-business support, and several of these are consortia. In one case, for instance, there is a joint venture between a management consultancy, an Internet facilities house, a law firm and Manx Telecom. This approach ensures that all necessary skills are brought to bear on the setting-up of an offshore e-commerce operation.

Several firms offer comprehensive support to retail e-commerce operations, typically including the following components:

  • domain name, hosting and site statistics;
  • secure space for customer ordering form;
  • home, company information and other pages as required;
  • product catalogue, shopping basket and ordering facility;
  • catalogue design and construction including photography;
  • keyword-based search engine positioning;
  • payment-processing solutions from an external service;
  • continuing site updating service.

To learn about direct, practical assistance with setting up an offshore e-commerce operation on the Isle of Man, please see our E-commerce Business Guide.

Banking and Payment Processing Facilities

There are currently (2006) some 54 banks established on the Isle of Man; although the number of banks on the island has fallen slightly over the last 5 years, the calibre and scale of banking operations has been showing marked improvement.

A number of banks offer Internet banking services from the Isle of Man, and it would be simple for an offshore e-commerce operation to source a full range of appropriate banking services on the island.

The Government has launched a fast-track approval process to grant global e-commerce banking licences, and at least one such license has been issued. So far, no local payment-processing scheme has been announced, but several international banks with branches on the island offer global payment-processing solutions.

In November 2000 WISekey, a worldwide leader in certification authority and public key infrastructure, announced that it had created WISeOffshore, an internet initiative to provide specialized services and applications for offshore jurisdictions and their financial institutions. But in the spring of 2001 the Manx-based service was put on hold, much to the disappointment of the Island's e-commerce sector.

WISekey's president, Carlos Moreira, said at the time that the project would be 'operational in different stages' and that plans for the project were still underway.

In June, 2004, NETeller plc announced its move to the Isle of Man. The company said the move was undertaken for many reasons, including the island's robust telecommunications infrastructure and the commitment that the Isle of Man government is making towards eCommerce. Further to this was the Island’s financial and economic environment as well as its unique relationship with the UK (and Europe).

Neteller developed an online payment solution that acts as an electronic wallet for consumers to purchase goods and services over the internet, while providing full service payment processing, fraud control and customer audit services over the internet for merchants.