Digicel looking to subsidize computers?

Digicel seeks laptop makers in France, China …Telecom plans to subsidise computers to capture large share of Internet market
Sunday | February 11, 2007
Camilo Thame, Business Reporter

David Hall: We will bring something to the consumer that they won’t have seen before. -Contributed

Digicel Jamaica, which plans to dish out subsidised laptops with the launch of its
Internet product by mid-year, says it is negotiating with manufacturers
in France and China to supply the machines.

Essentially, Digicel, the Jamaica Caribbean trade name for Irish firm Mossel, will
attempt to replicate the strategy it employed when it rolled out its
mobile telephone service in Jamaica six years ago, to start the erosion
of Cable & Wireless’ telecommunications monopoly in the
English-speaking Caribbean. Then, it flooded the market with cheap
mobile phones

Affordable offering

“We will bring something to the consumer that they won’t have seen before,”
said David Hall, the Irishman who runs the Jamaican arm of the
telecommunications firm. “It is very important to make our offering
affordable to Jamaicans, so they can have access to Internet, just like
with mobile phones.”

Hall’s goal is simple but bold. He plans to double Internet penetration in a
short space of time, “regardless of what actual usage is now.”

The latest Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll places Internet access at 17 per cent of the
population. However, newcomer, Flow, which offers broadband Internet
from its fibre optic network, places Internet subscription at only five
per cent of households, or 38,000 homes.

While Internet penetration estimates may vary, it is clear that the actual
number of persons that use the Internet on a monthly basis is closer to
the higher range.

“Forty five per cent of our customer base uses GPRS on a monthly basis,” Hall told The Sunday Gleaner in an interview on Tuesday.

Digicel currently has 1.6 million “active subscribers” according to Hall it
remains unclear the number of customers that have more than one phone.

GPRS, short for general packet radio service, is a packet-based wireless
communication service based on GSM communication that allows continuous
connection to the data services for mobile phone and computer users. It
allows Digicel mobile users to browse the Internet.

Mainstream Internet

Digicel plans to move into mainstream Internet, with the islandwide launch of
its wireless Internet product, WiMax, to residential customers by the
third quarter of this year. The telecom is currently testing the
product among select business customers, such as Sangster’s Bookstore,
which uses the service to link its stores across the country.

In terms of its mobile business, Hall says he will continue to target
customers who are on his competitors’ networks, with the specific
near-term goal of snatching away Cable and Wireless customers that will
have to switch from first-generation TDMA phones, which will be dropped
off C&W’s network, come March 30.

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