Digicel’s “Sweeter Deal” FTC Case Victory as Minister Paulwell allocates 700MHz band for New Telecoms Player

Since February 2012AD Digicel has dispute Minister of Science Technology Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell’s decision to grant interim Telecom powers to the OUR. Them when LIME dropped their rates as chronicled in LIME drops Cross Network Calling rate to JA$6.99 to kick off a 3 year Battle for Mobile Market Dominance, Digicel’s response was to seek Legal Counsel. While launching their “Sweetest Deal” Promotion as described in Digicel launches 4G Mobile and JA$2.89 Sweeter in a bid – Jamaican Voice + Data Summer Wars, which up to the time of penning this ditty is still just that, they also went to the Supreme Court seeking a Judicial Review claiming being ill-informed.

This was essentially a case of being denied Natural Justice as they sought to challenge the OUR’s power to regulate the Telecom Sector. This before the new Telecom Regulator came online sometime in the Fourth Quarter of 2012AD as noted in New Telecom Act Coming for Jamaica – Providers surprised with their Own Regulator. Digicel is also claiming substantial losses due to the Cross Network Tariff; albeit they stopped short of saying that they’d be losing money.

Had they claimed this, that of course would not be true, as the OUR’s decision only affects Cross Network and International Calling Rates. On-Net Rates are merely being lowered by LIME to continue the perception that Cross-Network and International Calling is more expensive than On-Net Calling despite the advent of JA$1000 International Calling plans at rates as low as JA$1 per minute as stated in How to set up an International Calling Plan for Digicel or LIME Prepaid and Postpaid.

My personal prediction is that not only will Postpaid, Mobile Internet and Fixed Line Service gets a boost from these lower Cross Network and International Rates but by 2015AD, Voice Service calls on purely GSM Voice Telecoms Networks will be completely free thanks to the proliferation of 3G and LTE 4G Networks and new Smartphones that are Data Service Capable only.

As of Friday July 13th 2012AD, this is no longer an issue as for the people of Jamaica the Flat Rate Cross Network Tariff “tun up” with the Supreme Court Ruling in the OUR’s (effectively the Ministry of Science Technology Energy and Mining and the GOJ!!) respectively.

Puisne Judge Ingrid Mangatal, who presided over the case, issued a fifty five (55) page document with the following Summary Judgment, quote: “Digicel has not made out a case that it will suffer actual, likely or irreparable harm or loss. On the other hand, it does appear to me that Lime will likely suffer financial damage and reputational loss if a stay is granted, particularly as they have indicated that they have already relied upon the interim Determination Notice.”

LIME on the other hand wasbeside themselves with glee with Managing Director of LIME Gary Sinclair making the following statement, quote:  “Actions speak loudly. We responded to the OUR’s lowering of termination rates by immediately dropping our mobile prices to the lowest in Jamaican history and our people reacted very positively. Digicel responded by taking the OUR… to court.” Good to note rather quickly that FLOW, without a huff, as dropped their rates as follows on this day that will forever be etched in the minds of historians for years to come.

In a Press Release on the matter, it was business as usual with the customer satisfaction being the No. 1 priority for President and CEO Michelle “Dallas” English, quote: “Since our launch, we have been able to provide our customers with the best pricing on landline telephone service, including being the only telephone service provider offering 100 per cent free on-network calls (Flow to Flow), lower calling rates to call LIME landlines than LIME charges for its own on-network calls and truly unlimited international calls to the most frequently called destinations. Our move to reduce these calling rates is just another step to fulfilling our promise to always deliver the best value to our customers”.

Alas Digicel is playing it safe and clever. By submitting to a decision that they don’t agree with, they are in essence currying favour with the Supreme Court as it relates to the FTC (Fair Trading Commission’s) challenge of their swap for CLARO Jamaica being anti-competitive in which Supreme Court Justice Ann Marie Haynes ruled that the FTC had the right to do.

With recent news that Minister Phillip Paulwell intends to allocate a block of spectrum in the 700MHz band along with a new Fiber Optic License for Undersea and possibly on-Land FTTH (Fiber to the Home), the possibility of another Telecom Provider coming to Jamaica is now clear and present.

Most likely to set up shop in the Data Services Sector of Telecoms, this developement means that with the loss of the Supreme Court case to the OUR may allow Digicel to  achieve a “Sweeter Deal” Victory in their FTC Challenge, also in the Supreme Court. Never has legal matters being made so exciting in the Media!

Well played Digicel.

But who is going to be the potential bidder for this band of spectrum, which dips ever so gently into the Free-to-Air Broadcasters Bands? Did television Jamaica have to give up spectrum for Minister Phillp Paulwell to make this spectrum offer? Geezam will follow up this story and we’ll have news as soon as it becomes available.

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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.