Digicel launches “4G” Mobile and JA$2.89 Sweeter Deal in a bid for Prepaid Extinction

By now the news must have not only sunk in but also may have had you Digicel faithful jumping for joy. Digicel has lowered its On-Net and Cross-Network Calling rate as of Friday June 22nd 2012AD much to the delight of many Jamaicans according to The Jamaica Observer’s Vox Pop

This was roughly a week after LIME had lowered their On-Net and Cross Network Calling rates to historic lows on Friday June 15th 2012AD. LIME’s rate drops are a pre-emptive strike an part of LIME’s three (3) year market capitalization strategy before the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) makes the rate changes official on Sunday July 15th 2012AD as surmised in my article LIME drops Cross Network Calling rate to JA$6.99 to kick off a 3 year Battle for Mobile Market Dominance.

Digicel has effectively thrown down the gauntlet in a Summer of 2012AD Pricing War to match the pre-emptive price drops by competitor LIME in the Voice Telecoms Sector. These new rate drops were announced with much media Fanfare in New Kingston as parlayed in Kelroy’s article Digicel counters LIME with “Jamaica Sweetest Plan” $2.89 per minute.

Dubbed the “Sweetest Plan”, Digicel’s new rates, strangely enough are NOT officially published on their website but are nonetheless quite compelling:

  • JA$2.89 per minute for on-Net and International Voice Calls for Digicel Prepaid
  • JA$6.99 per minute for Cross Network Voice Calls to LIME and Fixed Line Landlines

Curiously too, Digicel has taken the OUR to court since Monday 25th 2012AD as it relates to the authority of the OUR under the newly revamped Telecommunications Act to Regulate Cross-Network and International Calling Rates.

Clearly Digicel is not taking this lying down, as via declaring in fine print that their  “Sweeter Deal” is indeed a Promotion and not a permanent service they are signaling they are not taking competition lying down meanwhile challenging the authority of the OUR to throw a spanner their Voice Calling Gravy Train.

To be fair, Digicel has flat out objected to the OUR’s decision to drop Cross Network Calling Rates to JA$5.00 since February 2012AD; their legal challenge questioning the OUR’s authority is justifiable. This  seeing as the new Telecommunications Act refers to a New Telecoms Regulator, which is yet to be established as per the promise by then Prime Minister Bruce Golding described in New Telecom Act Coming for Jamaica – Providers surprised with their Own Regulator.

More interestingly (gasp!!) Digicel has also delivered on a new service, as promised earlier in January 2012AD and anticipated in my article How to Access LIME or Digicel’s 3G Internet using an unlocked Huawei E1556 Modem Dongle or Nokia Modem Dongle: 4G Mobile.

Digicel 4G Mobile was launched with much fanfare at Victoria Pier on Ocean Boulevard on Wednesday June 27th 2012AD just in front of the location of their new Solar powered Headquarters as noted in Digicel Jamaica’s Alternative Energy Future – Increased Electricity Bills and Energy Sector Opportunities collide slated to be occupied by August 2012AD.

Digicel 4G Mobile is geared towards Mobile Devices that support the HSDPA+ Release and had gotten Geezam’s full Press Court in Editor-in-Chief’s Digicel Launches 4G Mobile Network despite lackluster interest displayed by Local media in the Telecoms affairs.

After all, to the Public this  appeared to be yet another launch of 4G by Digicel after having launched 4G Broadband powered by WiMaX IEEE 802.16d, e two (2) years ago in August 2010AD.

Geezam admittedly has not been to kind to Digicel’s first attempt at 4G, due to its slower than promised speeds as noted in Geezam blogger Horace’s article Digicel Jamaica Wimax Review – Part 1 and Digicel Jamaica Wimax Review Part 2.

This can be attributed mainly to high latency inherited from their Data Service sharing the same space [channel allocations] on their IPRAN (Internet Protocol Radio Access Network) Backhaul Network with Voice traffic, a source of congestion in any Telecoms Network. By right, Data should have its own Backhaul, specifically Fiber Optic, thus being provisioned for future T1 upgrades when Digicel decides to go 4G for real.

Interestingly too, I’ve discovered some interesting stuff since nosing about Digicel’s Flagship New Kingston store run by  Anbell Communications. This I did as a sauntered off bespectacled in my tinted UV Glasses asking questions of anyone from Digicel I can get a hold of in-between lunch breaks at my new job as a Technical Engagement Specialist on the Sharp Account at ACCENT Marketing Limited in New Kingston.

Thus folks, kindly ignore the article How to Unlock your Huawei Modem to work on LIME 3G or Digicel, as it’s now totally unnecessary; Digicel now has Mobile 4G, specifically HSDPA+ (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) as ratified by UN (United Nations) Telecoms body the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) as 4G in January 2011AD.

This is a source of confusion for Standards purists like myself, as 4G initially was defined by the ITU 4G working group as follows:

  1. 100MBps data rates between UE (User Equipment) and servers, (possibly shared between upload and download?)
  2.  The use of Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM), to which WiMaX IEEE 802.16d already complies.

In fact, in October 2010AD, LIME’s Regional Vice-President for Legal, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, Camille Taylor Facey, had taken Digicel to the FTC (Fair Trading Commission) on the very same issue relating to WiMaX IEEE 802.16d being advertised as 4G i.e. false advertising.

Digicel had responded in November 2010AD and cleared the air on WiMaX IEEE 802.16d being defined as 4G as per the ITU’s ruling. This despite the fact that Digicel was advertising their “4G” Network BEFORE the ITU Ratified it as such.

In effect, Digicel took its stance from the legal precedence set by the ITU among Telecoms providers also falsely advertising their WiMaX IEEE 802.16d, e and HSDPA+ Networks in North American as 4G.

Since this technical light from the ITU, the arguement of what defines 4G has been mainly moot among the Telecoms Providers, BOTH of whom clearly have HSDPA+ Release 5 Networks that are not yet to truly upgrade to HSDPA+ Release 7, despite LIME’s initial test of once such as per my article  LIME’s 4G Experience Centers challenge the Rise of Dekal Wireless Dragon.

Not only that, based on questions and information solicited by former friends of mine who were working for CLARO and are now with Digicel’s IT Department, Digicel 4G Mobile Network IS a HSDPA Release 5, capable of speeds of 3.6MBps Best effort and using 16-QAM as its Symbol compression level for WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access).

They had completely torn down all of CLARO’s infrastructure installed at CLARO Cell cites by Chinese Telecom Equipment Supplier Huawei and replaced them with ODU (Out Door Units) and BBU (Base Band Units) supplied by Telecom Equipment Supplier Ericsson, the builder of Digicel’s GSM (Global System Mobile) Voice Network.

Whether or not they had also built out a separate IPRAN Network just for their new 4G Mobile Network (not as good as Fiber Optic, but would be an improvement!!) is another question up for debate in a more technically charged article, as my sources, mainly former CLARO employees and Digicel employees an contractors  working with Digicel did no say.

This based on tip-offs and my handy Table provided in my article How to Access LIME or Digicel’s 3G Internet using an unlocked Huawei E1556 Modem Dongle or Nokia Modem Dongle. In short, Digicel is merely matching LIME’s faster 3G Network Toe-to-toe which by December 2012AD should be going LTE.

In ending, the following conclusion can be drawn: Digicel “4G” Mobile is not true 4G yet again, a repeat of the same fiasco two (2) years prior. Worse neither is LIME, albeit this time around they may not be so inclined to take each other to court in what would amusingly be a case of the Pot Calling the Kettle Black.

Marketing and Media obfuscation has now left the consumer so confused that even I while questioning Digicel employees at Digicel Anbell operated Flagship Store found their lack of forthrightness and clarity on the Nature of their Network and the actual Speed a bit troubling.

Clearly neither they nor LIME had a true 4G Networks, but BOTH Telecom Providers are keeping the true nature of their Networks Protocols and speeds secret with well tailored advertising and media-and-mobile phone mud-slinging.

However, I am not a not a Grudge-bearing Protocol curmudgeon troll or perfectionist. Both LIME and Digicel have dropped their Voice and Data Rates considerably since launching their respective Voice Plans (or Promotions??) and “4G” Networks. If the words of the Minister of Science, Technology Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell are to be believed, the best is yet to come on Sunday 15th July 2012AD.

This is when the OUR Ratifies the rates, which may go lower. Christmas 2012AD promises to be nice again as on December 2012AD MNP (Mobile Number Portability) becomes a reality, making switching Voice Networks and keeping your old phone number a commonplace reality

It may also mean that carrying Dual SIM Mobile phones to take advantage of offers on either Telecom Network may be the next new trend, being as MNP is geared mainly at Postpaid customers and not Prepaid subscribers.

The benefits to a push towards Postpaid, Fixed Line Landline and Data Services as laid out in the OUR 2009 to 2010 Report and predicted in my article LIME drops Cross Network Calling rate to JA$6.99 to kick off a 3 year Battle for Mobile Market Dominance are thus on their way to fulfillment in the next three (3) years.

By 2015AD, not only will the RIM Blackberry be extinct, replaced mainly by Google Android  powered smartphones and Apple iPhones  as per my ditty Apple iPhone boosts Jamaican smartphone usage as BB goes Chapter 11 Bankruptcy but Prepaid Customer may be extinct as well…….

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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.