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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