My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: LIME's fortunes after Digicel-CLARO - Master and Commander Garfield Sinclair

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

LIME's fortunes after Digicel-CLARO - Master and Commander Garfield Sinclair

On adamant our wrongs we all engrave,
But write our benefits upon the wave.

William King, The Art of Love

With the recent horse trading of Telecom Provider CLARO’s operations in Jamaica, El Salvador and Honduras between Digicel Group and America Movil respectively as chronicle in my blog article entitled “Digicel buys CLARO Jamaica - Jumanji Exchange is no Robbery”, the annual listing of the billionaires as collated by the Forbes Magazine is now out and about. Upon perusing the wealth of the rivals in what is really a rich man’s game of Poker, it becomes apparent who is really top dog. Carlos Slim Helu.

So tough is this Forbes Magazine listing, that I had to find separate newspaper articles that de the wealth of these members of the Bilderburg Billion Dollar Round Table – which DOES have its origins from the Rothschilds Family, please note, dear reader.

Seventy one (71) year old Carlos Slim Helu, owner of America Movil’s, parent company of No. 2 CLARO and owner and licensee of the brand across Latin America, by tops out at US$74 billion dollars in pole position on the charts as stated in the article “Carlos Slim Tops Forbes List of Billionaires for Second Year”, published March 10, 2011 12:01 AM ET by Elizabeth Ody, BloomBerg Magazine.

Carlos Slim Helu maintains his position from last year, with fifty five year old (55) Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft Corporation coming it the coveted No. 2 position with US$56 billion, with friend and investor eighty year (80) old Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway coming in at third place. Notice their ages: apparently wealth accumulates with age and experience, with Bill Gates being the youngest of the bunch in terms of relative age.

By contrast, fifty two (52) year old Dennis O' Brien, owner of Digicel Groups, which has operations in thirty two (32) regions scattered the Caribbean, Latin America and the South Pacific Islands, comes in at two hundred and fifty four (254) with US$4.2 billion on the Forbes Magazine. This according to the article in The Jamaica Observer, entitled “Denis O'Brien's Wealth Tops US$4b”, published Sunday March 13, 2011, The Jamaica Observer.

Thus the obvious becomes apparent: Dennis O' Brien did NOT buy Telecom Provider CLARO’s operations in Jamaica because he WANTED to buy.  He was FORCED to buy or as should be said correctly, MAKE an offer to America Movil’s, being as Telecom Provider Digicel in Jamaica was under pressure.

This apparent from the multitude of promotions that was a drain on the purse strings of the almost limitless financial resources of America Movil’s, who could have kept up the Battle of “Free” forcing Digicel Group into a continuous pitched battle for “God of Abraham only knows how long”, as my cosmetologist SDA femme fetale Audia Granston used to opine.

Again, if you are not a believer in newspapers, America Movil’s posting of the transaction on their Bulletin board entitled “America Movil to acquire Digcel's operations in Honduras and El Salvador and to sell its operations in Jamaica” avails itself as absolute reference.

So where does all this leave Telecom Provider LIME, rebranded in 2008 from C&W (Cable and Wireless) Jamaica Ltd by June 2011? With the horse-race reduced down to a two-man affair, Telecom Provider LIME is in a bad shape in terms of its Residential Services, all of which are not up to scratch.

Telecom Provider LIME 3G Service, launched a few weeks before America Movil’s officially launched the repurchased and rebranded MiPhone, previously owned by Oceanic Digital Jamaica Ltd in the last Quarter of 2008, is still to achieve island-wide coverage.

This despite promising to reach Montego Bay with their Service by Christmas of 2010 as stated in the article “LIME to build US$40m 3G Network for Montego Bay”, published Sunday June 27, 2010, by Janeta Silvera, The Jamaica Gleaner.

They have yet to full reach the rest of the island, most likely because they build out their Network by laying Fiber Optic cable connections between the Mobile Cell towers to connect their Node B equipment to the MSC (Mobile Switching Center) located at Chalmer’s Avenue.

Building out a Fiber Optic Network takes time, as Telecom Provider LIME have been slowly replacing their old 600-twisted pair Copper Cables both undersea as well as on land with Fiber Optic since 2004!

For reference, I worked at Telecom Provider C&W, now Telecom Provider LIME as a Network Maintenance Technician, wiring and fixing mainly Landlines, ADSL and Remote OPM (Outside Plant Modules) and OPAC (Outside Plant Access Cabinet) Landline while employed between the years 2001 to 2004!

So I know quite a bit about the costing in provisioning the services of a Telecom Provider, both from a technical standpoint as well as from a Business standpoint having grown up in Telecoms and engineering for the greater part of my life.

I am a true Prince of Persia much as the character in the movie Prince of Persia: The Sands of Times (2010). A nickname I got, as I was rescued from an obscure dead-end low-paying job at National Bakery in 2001AD due my defense of Apple Inc. and then rehired CEO Steve Jobs.

Thus, coming from a poor family in Milk River, I was introduced to the wealth, delights and splendour of Telecoms [Persia] and I have never looked back. This was my nickname at C&W, due to my defense of Telecom Provider C&W but dislike for their lack of marketing savvy!!!

So let logic reign. Triple Play Provider FLOW with their “Watch.Talk.Click” product offering is yet to reach the rest of the country and is mainly centered in Kingston! This after launching with much fanfare in 2004 as being an all-Digital Network as stated in the article, “Flows' pace slows - But Broadcasting Commission okay with Network Delay”, published Friday August 28, 2009, The Jamaica Gleaner!

So despite their slowness in the outlay of their 3G Network, Telecom Provider LIME is not doing too badly, as their Service is stable and rock solid in Kingston and the Greater Portmore Area.

That is the power and reliability of Fiber Optics outlays, an implementation of Waveguide technologies: the best backhaul for ANY Wireless or Wired Network! Believe it or not!!

Triple Play Provider FLOW still have the advantage of being the major supplier of T1 interconnectivity in Jamaica as noted in my blog article entitled “CLARO, LIME and HSDPA+ - CEO Michele English, The Maverick”. Not to mention having gone Digital before all the Terrestrial Free-to-Air Big Three (3) Broadcasters as stated in my blog article entitled “Telecom Providers, 100MBps Broadband and the Broadcasting Commission - Redemption Song”.

Telecom Provider LIME’s focus on Business to the detriment of its Residential Services appears to not be working in their favour. Traditionally, Business Customers are given wholesale priced offers for services, with Residential having to pay much higher prices on Wired Services.

Ditto too for Wireless! Thus, prices for their Business Customers (also called Corporate or Enterprise Services!!) are usually offered with the guarantee of QoS (Quality of Service), with such offering as Dedicated Internet and PBX Voice Services, mainly as Business Customers pay for their services on regular Monthly thirty (30) day billing cycles.

Business Customers pay a Premium for these Dedicated Services with their QoS guarantees. I used to argue that QoS guarantees are best backed up with an ISO9001 Certification, which Telecom Provider LIME is yet to seek to undertake to achieve.

I still do, as obvious from my blog article about Alcatel-Lucent’s more efficient lamp-post sized design for a Node B, (which I suspect is a suggestion of mine in 2009 come alive!!) entitled “Telecom Providers, Alternative Energy and ISO9001 - Alcatel-Lucent, I shrunk the Node B kids”.

Residential Customers, be they Wired or Wireless, are more fickle when it comes to paying for their Service on time, again traditional wisdom and not necessarily a reflection of the Economy. Thus Telecom Providers do not place much attention on their services, opting instead to fete Residential Customers with pricing offers and deals to entice them to stick with their Network.

In the United States of America, it is mainly two (2) year contracts combined with Unlimited Calling and Data Plan offerings, especially on smartphones and Feature phones that are used to maintain Customer loyalty to the Telecom Provider’s Network.

However, despite this logical focus on the more sure money from Business Customers, Residential Customers, be they Wired or Wireless are still important, especially to Brand image. Especially in light of their considerable losses in landline as obvious from combing through the articles entitled “LIME Jamaica loses J$1.3 billion in First Quarter”, published Friday, February 11, 2011 by Alecia Roache, The Jamaica Observer.

Majority of their losses appear to be in due mainly to their increased spending and promotional activity, something that LIME Country Manager Jeff Houston had promised from 2010. Apparently, Telecom Provider CLARO Promotions was putting the heart on Telecom Provider LIME also!

But it is the declaration from Managing Director of LIME, Garfield Sinclair, however best expresses what I had long suspected: their Landline Network, made up mostly of DMS 100/200 and NEAX61E Switches was dragging them down. Remember folks, logic rules here in my argument.

During a Q&A with Alecia Roache a Reporter from The Jamaica Observer with regards to details of the published Financial statements for the Fourth Quarter of 2010, he commented on the future of Landline, quote: “We're now seen as innovators again, with exciting new services like mobile TV, which will only enhance our ability to permanently attract mobile Customers to our Network. Our landline business will receive a much needed facelift in the coming quarter and has already begun to show renewed signs of strength in December with a 19 per cent increase in Gross Adds over the previous year”

As I had worked their before, I know that the greatest expense in running the Central Office with these Digital Telecom Switches or Exchanges is their power consumption mainly for:
1.      Running the Switches, Modems, Digital and Analog Trunks and other exchange equipment
2.      Air conditioning used to cool the building to keep the equipment from overheating
3.      Pressurizing the 600-pair and fiber optic cables with dry air that keeps out moisture

Removal of this expenditure via going Alternative Energy would not only save Telecom Provider LIME  money in the long run as stated my blog article entitled “Telecom Providers and Alternative Energy - Stormy Weather and the MTV Generation”, but it could put them on the path to achieving QoS and thus ISO9001 Certification.

Boosting of Customer usage by attracting them with VAS (Value Added Services) such as ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line) services is therefore key to the long term viability of the Central Office.

This after Managing Director of LIME, Garfield Sinclair, went on further to declare that Broadband penetration is still too low and, quote, “We believe broadband penetration continues to be far too low given its positive effect on GDP growth and we will therefore continue to work with the government and our communities to expand broadband Service in Jamaica”.

Thus the obvious becomes apparent. Long before all of this brouhaha occurred in the Mobile Sector, Telecom Provider LIME outlook was already long term, with an aim to ride out the effects of the Global Recession until better times prevail when the spending power of Jamaican consumer return to make it worth their while to make a major push island wide with the 3G Network.

Rather than be caught up in the hype, Telecom Provider LIME’s outlook is long-term, slowly building out a quality, QoS and eventually ISO9001 certify-able 3G Network and LTE Network (?).

In the short term, Telecom Providers will continue to advertise their better offers (I can attest to this, as I use LIME Faves and it is mad!!!!) and capitalize from the possible negative fallout form Telecom Provider Digicel purchase of the Jamaican assets of Telecom Provider CLARO. He who advertises the most always wins out in the fierce pitched Pricing-centric battles between Telecom Providers.

Especially in the Wireless Services, such as Mobile and M2M (Machine-to-Machine Services), is a now rapidly expanding VAS for Telecom Provider AT&T, who have vowed to push aggressively into this market for the year 2011 as stated in my blog article entitled “AT&T, NFC andM2M - Cashless Society and the Internet of Things”.

Already, Telecom Provider AT&T has launched yet another VAS (Value Added Service). This time it is called ShopAlerts, which is basically FourSquare clone as described in my blog article entitled “AT&T and ShopAlerts - Confessions of a Geo-location Shopaholic”.

Despite the massive 270% increase in losses for the Fourth Quarter of 2010, these losses for Telecom Provider LIME are explainable and not mysterious cost overruns. Thus one can be forgiven for getting over-excited by the figures, again once you have read them through hand analyzed the statistics.

Thus the mission is clear. Telecom Provider LIME needs to take advantage of this golden opportunity presented to them to revive their sagging Landline portfolio with a combination of Technology and Marketing.

Expanding the Landline Service by offering it as an ADSL bundle with the landline would be the best offer at prices competitive to their closes rival Triple Play Provider FLOW.

Additionally, more marketing of the Landline Xpress, the Wireless EDGE based Landline Service that is a VAS for their now Stellar Mobile Services so as to effectively compete with Telecom Provider Digicel Fixed Line Services.

As for their 3G Services, they need to continue at the same pace, doing market surveys to determine areas where people have computer and an interest in computing and thus provision those Mobile Towers and Ericsson Node B with the necessary 3G Service so as to make their outlay of 3G cost efficient, instead of a rapid outlay without hard statistical evidence of their outlay being financially viable in the long term.

Truly, Managing Director of LIME, Garfield Sinclair must become “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)”. He now is given the task of bringing the now fully paid up and sea-salt sodden and experienced crew of Telecom Provider LIME through the most harrowing seven (7) year journey of their lives.

This as Telecom Provider LIME rides out the worst of the effects of the Global Recession onboard Telecom Provider LIME in the shadow of the boarding of Telecom Provider CLARO ship by members of the ship Telecom Provider Digicel

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