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Digicel Introduces One Rate Calling for $8.99 in Jamaica

Digicel shocked the Living Daylights out of virtually everyone when they announced on Friday March 2nd 2012AD that they would be introducing a significantly lowered Cross Network Calling Rate of JA$8.99 for Prepaid Callers, which Digicel refers to as DigiFlex. Yes, folks, there is indeed news more shocking than Digicel’s initially announcement that they were going to shut down the CLARO Network as per my article “CLARO’s Freeness ends 5th January 2012 – Digicel’s Bigger, Better with Data and Cloud”. Believe it or not!

Curiously enough, the rate cut is not completely voluntary, as once you activate it using the USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) code of *155#, you have thirty (30) days to kick the tyres about a bit using the new Flat Rate of JA$8.99 before you officially hit the road on this Flat Rate permanently for all Digicel Prepaid Subscribers, whether you chose to or not. If you find the ride uncomfortable, you can deactivate the service after thirty (30) days using *155*0#.

Also if you are a beneficiary of Gimme 5, think again: you only benefit from the local Free calling offers, but not the International Gimme 5 offer of thirty (30) minutes of free calling after five (5) minutes on a overseas call to the US, UK and Canada. Effectively it’s really “Taste an’ buy” for Digicel customers who were formerly CLARO Customers after the shutdown of CLARO Jamaica’s GSM Voice Network as chanted by Kelroy’s article Claro Jamaica to get the Axe from Digicel come March 1st.

Clearly now, Digicel was only after CLARO’s 3G Licenses and Spectrum to build out their HSDPA+ (High Speeds Downlink Packet Access) Release 7 Network as opined in my how-to article on the unlocking of the Huawei E1556 Modem Dongle in How to Unlock your Huawei Modem to work on LIME 3G or Digicel.

The Majority of CLARO customers, approximately 80%, have taken up the offer to migrate to Digicel’s Network. This is most likely on the basis of being able to keep their original phone numbers, itself a form of LNP (Local Number Portability) and using their Huawei E1556 Modem Dongles to access Digicel’s new 3G Network.

Digicel has big plans in mind, with an upgrade to the recently acquired CLARO’s 3G Network to a significantly faster HSDPA+ Release 7 Network sometime around London Olympics 2012 which is slated for July 27th 2012 being strong signs of a possible ramp up for LTE (Long Term Evolution) in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean as per my article LIME, Digicel and FLOW – Leading the Global 4G Adoption Curve.

Digicel had indeed offered to make a rate cuts from JA$17.50 peak and JA$15.80 off peak to the current rates of JA$14.00 peak and JA$13.00 off peak for Digicel to LIME calls as per Digicel’s Select Tariffs & Rates in January, when  they had announced the pending shutdown of CLARO’s GSM Voice Networks.

Point of reference: peak is from 7:00am to 6:59pm the following day Monday to Friday and off peak being 7:00pm to 6:59am the following day, Monday to Friday. The weekends on Digicel’s Network is regarded as starting on Friday at 7:00pm and ending on the following Monday at 6:59am.

A measly first gesture towards Flat Rate Cross Network Calling, but they indeed did comply, bowing slightly to public opinion which was and still is against the swap, oweing mainly to the lack of forthrightness of then Prime Minister Andrew Holness in not informing Jamaica earlier. At least Minister of Technology and Telecommunications Philip Paulwell has made good on his promise to have the Telecoms mess sorted out.

This he achieved with a meeting earlier on Tuesday February 7th 2012AD with the three (3) remaining Telecom Players Digicel, LIME and FLOW that has effectively ushered in the following benefits to the Telecoms Industry and Jamaican customer as a whole:

  • MNP (Mobile Number Portability), effectively making Fixed Line and Mobile phone number portable, swappable and yours to switch to any Telecoms Networks of your choice
  • A Telecom Regulator for the Telecom providers ONLY, weaning them off the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) and casting a nice light on the Telecoms Industry as a whole and emphasizing its importance to Jamaica long term development as opined in New Telecom Act Coming for Jamaica – Providers surprised with their Own Regulator
  • A renewed commitment from the three (3) Telecom Providers to providing Wired and Wireless Broadband all Jamaicans via a Fiber Optic Network connecting three hundred (300) Schools in Jamaica funded via the cess from the UAFCL (Universal Access Fund Company Limited)

Thus this further rate cut by Digicel, even going the full hog by effectively rolling out Flat Rate Cross Network Calling is interesting however, as realistically it only benefits Digicel customer who make frequent Cross-Network Calls i.e. LIME Landlines and Mobile phones and FLOW Landlines. It does not benefit Digicel Prepaid subscribers who make on net calls (Digicel to Digicel callers), as it’s effectively an increase of JA$.99 cents on the off peak calling rate but a decent decrease of JA$1.01 off the Peak Calling rate.

More interestingly, it does not benefit LIME, despite their earlier published threats after the meeting with Minister Philip Paulwell to leave Jamaica.

It may also herald the coming of more competition in Jamaica, as Digicel may be under pressure to relinquish the additional 850GHz spectrum it is still is “squatting” on after the CLARO Jamaica swap as well as the Huawei GSM Network with its MSC (Mobile Switching Center) located in the basement of the CLARO Headquarters on 30-34 Knutsford Road in New Kingston.

Competition coming to Jamaica in the Telecoms Industry? This as discussions is currently slated to begin with the Broadcasting Commission with regards to the way forward for DSO (Digital Switch Over). If the Free-to-Air Broadcaster accedes to the requests of Minister Phillip Paulwell, we may see the start of the long anticipated transition of Free-to-Air Radio and Television Broadcasting to the Digital Age.

The after-effect that the relinquishing of spectrum in the UHF (Ultra High Frequency) and VHF (Very High Frequency) is that it would make it possible for more competition to come to Jamaica. Not only that, the increased installation of  Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE802.11n) Networks such as Dekal Wireless and Nubian-1 Tech Service Limited using the so-called “White Space” Frequencies that would be available after DSO would result in Digicel and LIME facing increased competition in the now burgeoning Wireless Broadband Arena

Stay tuned for more from Geezam on this exciting developement

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.

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2 Responses to "Digicel Introduces One Rate Calling for $8.99 in Jamaica"

  1. Insightful post. The biggest message for me though is that although this rate changes are being marketed as benefitting consumers, etc, imho, a plus is given in one hand (flat daytime rate), and taken back in the other ($0.99 add on during off-peak hours). More importantly, this change in rates during nights and weekends is not necessarily being clearly communicated in the promotional material that is being circulated…

    However, if as you say, Lindsworth, these rates will become standard across the board, then effectively there will be limited choice…

    On a separate note, I am not sure that the Regulator plans to claw back from Digicel some of the spectrum initially assigned to Claro. If that stipulation had not been made when assessing the merger, it could be quite costly to Jamaica should Digicel be required to relinquish Claro frequencies it has been using at a later date. This is an issue that I have raised in a number of articles I have written on the subject in my own blog, ICT Pulse, http://www.ict-pulse.com, since March 2012, when the sale of Claro Jamaica to Digicel was announced.

    However, should you have more authoritative information on this matter, do share 🙂

  2. I also did several blog article on the subject of the swap since it was announced back in March 2011 on both the commercial geezam blog (I am an Associate Editor for the Geezam Blog). The geezam Blog has a total of active 12 male writers who write on a range of issues relating to Technology, ICT, Alternative Energy and Telecoms in Jamaica:

    http://www.geezam.com/staff/
    http://www.geezam.com/author/lindsworth

    I also write my own personal blog “My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica”:

    http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2012/01/digicel-to-shut-down-claros-voice.html

    As you can see i have been following the issue for quite awhile and from the links in my personal blog articles, i have been writing ever since the story broke back on March 11 2012AD. I am actual a former Telecoms Technicians as well as a Generator Specialist with at least 5 years experience in the Telecoms field.

    Believe it or not, albeit the deal is near finalization, Digicel is still being hauled before the courts by the FTC (Fair Trading Commission), declaring that the deal as is leaves Jamaica in an anti-competitive position with regards to choice for consumers. Should the FTC succeed, Digicle may be forced to relinquish the GSM 850MHZ and 1900MHZ Spectrum and the license for the Huawei GSM MSC and Node B equipment out in the field for which they have no actual use and in fact are really non performing assets that they would be looking to get off their hands.

    Thus, as strange as it may sound, Digicel may actually be in the process of looking for a buyer, if not being forced by the GOJ, for these non-performing assets. This as if DSO is forced upon the Free-to-air broadcasters come this March 2012 when phillip paulwell is slated to meet with the Broadcasting Commission on the issue, additional spectrum would be available for competition and Digicel themselves to purchase, and at significantly lower prices, as the frequencies ranges and bandwidths are quite substantive.

    Worse, this spectrum sale comes with the sale of white space frequencies inbetween the NTSC strandard spectrum, which means that Municipal Wi-Fi Networks stand to gain a huge amount of advantage over Digicel in the highly competitive Wireless Broadband field should they gain access to spectrum that may potentially be spectrum license free

    Thanks for the interest in sharing information. See our Chief Editor with regards to contact information:

    http://www.geezam.com/contact/

    Thank you

    Regards

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