My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Digicel and Free Calling - A case of Dog and Bone

Friday, July 16, 2010

Digicel and Free Calling - A case of Dog and Bone

Not what we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare

J.R. Lowell, Vision of Sir Launfal, II

With the recent launch of the Digicel Jus Buss Promotion on Thursday July 1st 2010 in celebration of the Summer of 2010 and its impending launch of it WiMax 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) Wireless Broadband Network in August 2010 as now been confirmed in the article “Digicel quietly testing 4G for August launch, published Sunday June 27th 2010 by Mark Titus, Gleaner Reporter, The Jamaica Sunday Gleaner.

John Public is now amazed at the sudden upsurge in advertising not only from Telecom Provider LIME and its interesting Promotions, but other companies now all of a sudden sporting new advertisements. Is this a sign of good things to come for Christmas 2010? Or is this just another part of the regular recycling of Promotions, just as Digicel Just Buss Promotion apparently appears to be?

At least other good things are occurring that are a benefit to the wider and rapidly growing Internet Community, such as FaceBook’s removal of that feature that allow people to send each other gifts and throw pillow fights by Sunday August 1st 2010 as stated in the video CNET Loaded, aired Friday July 9th2010 by Natalie Del Conte, Executive Editor, CNET New

This is much like cleaning a room, a room that was trashed after a party as was shown in the Richie Loops music video My Cupp and administrators of Facebook Fan pages can finally post documents on their fan pages for downloading as Facebook is finally supporting as stated in the video CNET Loaded, aired Monday July 12th2010 by Natalie Del Conte, Executive Editor, CNET News.

Looks like the free ride is ending just about everywhere it seems: end to free downloading, free streaming on Hulu, free VoIP Calling via Skype, free uncapped Data Plans from AT&T. John Public thus waxes philosophically, “What then is free”?

Granted, here in Jamaica we enjoy some of the lowest International Calling rates, mainly having to do with the fact that the after the oppressive regime of C&W ended in 2000 with the coming of the Telecommunications Act of 2000 which set the market free, we have been living in a Golden Age or Renaissance of sorts of one of the oldest mantras in Marketing: the Reward System. As a Prepaid Customer (equivalent to a Pay-as-you-go in the USA or UK), who still account for the majority of the Telecom Provider.

Not only are there a myriad of ways to top up your Mobile phone, but the Rewards for top up make Jamaica look like a rather large never-ending carnival of giveaways, with one almost every six (6) months, just to entice people to either purchase a new Mobile device or top up just receive a prize, which can be anything from stuff and goodies to even winning a car.

And it is reaping rewards, with increases in calling and profits of Telecom Providers based on a report by the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) despite the current Global Recession as stated in the article “Telecom revenue hit record in September Q” published Wednesday July 7th 2010, The Jamaica Observer,

Profits overall up by 6.5% year-on-year to US$13.5 billion. Of greatest interest to me is the growth of the Internet Services, as the growth in the Mobile Voice Calling is no surprise, again due to the Rewards Programs on offer. The OUR’s failure to obtain past Internet access numbers is rather sad, as that is really the only reason I would get up and plunk down some cheddar to even buy the OUR Telecommunications Market Quarterly Report, albeit it may be free on their website, like TIME Magazine was BEFORE the Apple iPad landed with an earsplitting roar onto the Consumer Electronics Market.

Figures provided indicate that Broadband subscribers, assumedly including both Wired and Wireless, surpassed the hundred thousand (100,000) mark, increasing by 16.5% to 109,790 subscribers. OUR or at least the Jamaica Observer, detailed statistics next time please, as not too clear if the monetary figures mentioned are Gross Profit or Net Profit as realistically, very few people actually will spend money to purchase the physical magazine for that much money when they can get the *pdf version for free, ad supported or on their Apple iPad for a subscription! Another article in the works on electronic publications…………

Thus it would appear that the Rewards System works for Voice (Local, International, Cross-Network) and SMS (Local, International, Cross-Network), but what of Data Plans? Reward Programs for encouraging the adoption of the various offering of the Telecom Providers are easily fabricated by the various Marketing Departments, some having no mathematical basis whatsoever, as they appear to be making the companies lose money in order to entice Customer to open their wallets a little more and purchase Credit for Top Up, effectively a form of “taste-and-buy”.

Telecom Provider Digicel focuses on its image, with its smart adroit Customer Care based push and convenience of purchasing and the “feel-good” element being the main crux of the marketing strategies, not to mention its hugely successful Digicel Rising Stars and its Digicel Foundation, its means of giving back directly to Jamaica.

Telecom Provider CLARO, whose focus on pricing and fair competition based on Flat Rate Calling and permanently baked in free calling feature, is less market savvy, focusing on aspects of Jamaica culture that they have in common with Latin America, such as our love for Football and Cultural Expressions, obvious in their advertising post-launch and their support for the JCDC (Jamaica Cultural Development Corporation) Festival of the Arts.

LIME, the rechristening of bmobile brand from C&W based on my proposal sent out on the Internet in 2007 to strive towards efficiency and an Environmental Marketing Strategy as part of their 3G launch, is focused more on service delivery, their cut-and-dry approach being more about making their 25% net profit, despite being number three (3) in the Mobile Market, depending on who you believe.

But still none of the Big Three (3) seem to be paying scant regard to advertising and promotion for Data Plans and Modems, save for Telecom Provider LIME, which has done television advertisements. Telecom Provider CLARO’s approach is efficient and German football-like but lacks the flair and stylishness of Spanish or even Brazilian football

Albeit to be completely honest, John Public hasn’t the foggiest clue what this “style” thing is in football, save to say that John Public feels that the Telecom Provider advertising for Data Plans and Product offerings are boring much in agreement with the CEO of Telecom Provider Three in the UK as stated in the article “Mobile ads ‘poor’ says Three Boss”, published Saturday July 3 2010, BBC News.

For now, modification of the current gimmicks used on Voice Plans to incentivize Data Plans is the obvious short term action, with creative marketing and branding as it relates to Data Plans such as the advertisements done by Dekal Wireless featured in the Sunday Gleaner since Sunday July 27th 2010. It’s a case of lots of Dogs and very few Bones.

Thus, the Big Three (3) Telecom Providers, aside from the use of SMS or Voice Mail reminders to advise of how close the Customer is to exceeding their Voice (local, International, Cross-Network), SMS (local, International, Cross-Network) and Data Plans and a sliding ETF (Early Termination Fee), free software to help you manage your Internet usage as well as other improvements as suggested in my blog article entitled “CLARO and its 3G Data Services - Inform people when they exceed their Overage” and the article “CLARO and ETF - Pro-Rated Dutch Auction is preferred

Telecom Provider Digicel also have to come out with more television advertisements that are snazzier and captivating and show the lifestyle usage of the modems – otherwise Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Provider Dekal Wireless, of who I had alluded to in my blog article entitled “CLARO and Coming of Municipal Wi-Fi - Shadows of the Empire” will spread and begin to significantly eat away at their profits in the lucrative and now burgeoning Wireless Broadband Arena.

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