BY DESMOND ALLEN Executive Editor - Special Assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
DIGICEL boss in the Turks and Caicos Islands, E Jay Saunders said customers in the island chain could save over 50 per cent on roaming services, following a big chop in rates announced last week by the telecommunications giant.
"As a commercial product, it's an amazing development for Digicel customers travelling to other parts of the Caribbean and beyond," Saunders told the Caribbean Business Report shortly after Digicel announced its new "Roam Like You're Home" plan from headquarters in downtown Kingston, Jamaica.
Asked how much savings could be realised on a typical spend for roaming services, Saunders who is also President of the TCI Chamber of Commerce, said a Digicel customer in the TCI could see a reduction of over 50 per cent in their roaming bills.
"It's even more amazing for customers who travel across the region. They won't have to keep buying a new SIM card for each territory they land in. In fact, they don't have to worry about which island they are in," said Saunders. "This is certainly going to reduce cost for our valued customers, especially our business customers who travel often. We are really excited about this development."
Digicel announced last Friday that under its "Roam Like You're Home" plan, customers would be able to call, email, browse the Internet and send text messages for "great low rates as they can use their phones in 24 countries abroad as they do at home".
Customers roaming in other Digicel markets across the Caribbean and Central America (with the exception of Guyana) will not have to pay an activation fee, and for roamers to the USA, the activation fee is lower.
Digicel quoted Jamaica's Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell as saying on August 7, 2013 that "those (roaming) charges hinder affordable communication among Caribbean people, and as we move toward greater regional unity, we must take every opportunity to remove the barriers that keep us apart".
Barry O'Brien, Digicel Jamaica CEO also commented: "We have done extensive research across the globe and what we are offering with 'Roam Like You're Home' is quite simply the best roaming plan in the world as it gives customers the freedom to use their phones abroad as they do at home, without having to worry about the cost.
"We are thrilled to be revolutionising the world of roaming and to be rolling this out across the region. In doing so, we are ensuring that our customers can stay connected easily and economically with Digicel."
Prepaid and postpaid customers in Jamaica already benefit from lower rates when they roam in the Caribbean and the United States with Digicel's "Same Rates a Yaad" offer, without having to pay an opt-in fee when they roam in a large number of Caribbean countries. To effect the change, tax on international calls to Jamaica ($0.095) and Haiti ($0.05) has been removed from October 1, 2013 for Digicel roaming subscribers.
The countries included are USA, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman, Curacao, Dominica, El Salvador, French Guyana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Panama, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Turks & Caicos.
Saunders who has been CEO of Digicel TCI for the past seven years, partnered with Digicel's principal Denis O'Brien to bring the telecommunications company to his country.
He said Digicel now has over 55 per cent of the TCI telecommunications market and can boast that all TCI government networks are now powered by Digicel, which includes a high-speed WAN (Wide Area Network) that connects over 80 government offices across six islands, making the state apparatus five times as efficient as it was before and saving it an estimated US$62,000 a month or US$3.7m over the five-year term of the contract.
TCI Government officers anywhere in the world can now utilise any data connection including WiFi on their mobile phones to make and receive calls through the Government's new cloud-based Unified Communications System (PBX) that Digicel TCI built specifically for the Premier Rufus Ewing-led State, thereby greatly reducing their roaming costs. The custom-built solution also gives the top 250 government officials the ability to conduct video conference calls directly from their desk phone, thereby cutting down on travel costs.
"What we have built for the TCI Government is probably the best unified communication system available to any government in the Caribbean. It is also comparable to the best in North America. I am certain when other governments see the efficiency gains this type of system produces and the amount of money it saves they will want to upgrade their communications networks," said the tech-savvy Saunders who personally designed the CISCO solution.
Digicel TCI is poised to move to the next level, having recently won the bid for the prime LTE (Long Term Evolution) spectrum, the next generation in mobile broadband, which is expected to be rolled out in 12 months.