KINGSTON — Competition in the telecommunications industry intensified yesterday with Digicel’s announcement that it will, in the next two months, seek to capture a share of the lucrative fixed-line business dominated by arch-rival LIME.
At the same time, an apparent notice by the Office of Utilities Regulation that the Mobile Termination Rate will be reduced to $1.10 per minute, effective July 1, was welcomed by both companies yesterday with pledges to slash call rates.
“We are going to do to the landline business what we did to the mobile business when we launched back in 2000,” said Digicel Jamaica CEO Barry O’Brien.
His reference was to the dramatic change in the mobile phone industry, sparked by Digicel’s entry which hit Cable & Wireless Jamaica (now LIME) very hard.
According to O’Brien, Digicel will use wireless technology to roll out the fixed-line service, which, he said, currently has approximately 300,000 numbers and is also offered by Columbus Communications Jamaica, parent company of cable TV giant Flow.
“Digicel has no intention of laying down a copper network. We are going to use wireless technology,” O’Brien said.
He told the Jamaica Observer that the company is also considering offering all Digicel-to-Digicel fixed-line calls free.
“That will be enabled with the change now; it will be easier for us; we will come up with a competing product,” he said.
The OUR’s decision comes on the heels of the Government’s stated intention to roll out local number portability next year, which will allow phone users to switch carriers and keep the same number.
“The OUR’s decision means that my customers can call LIME customers. It is going to cost me a lot less, which means that we will be passing that value on to our customers,” O’Brien said, adding that his company will make an announcement about the new prices soon.
“So with number portability coming in next year, and the reduced wireless termination rate, that is going to greatly assist us to launch this business,” he said.
Yesterday, LIME’s Corporate Communications Manager Elon Parkinson, in an e-mail response to the Observer, said that his CEO, Garry Sinclair, was on record saying that LIME can bring down the rates in a market when everything else is increasing because they were already too high.
“The fact of the matter is that they were artificially high,” the e-mail quoted Sinclair, who noted that, when the OUR dropped the rate from $9 to $5 last year, his company slashed its off-network rate from $12 to $6.99.
Yesterday, Michele English, president and chief operating officer of Columbus Communications, said her company welcomes number portability and will continue to encourage the Government to move speedily to its implementation so that consumers can realise the benefits to be gained.
“With number portability, consumers will be the real winners, they will have the ability and opportunity to choose their preferred service provider – the provider that will offer them the best service, best value and [most] savings,” she said. (Observer)