Sun | Dec 16, 2018

Digicel feeds data addiction, but talk is not dead

Published:Friday | August 10, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Digicel Jamaica CEO Justin Morin.
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Millennials are driving demand for data services, in Jamaica and across the region, leading to a fivefold growth in usage on Digicel Jamaica's network in half a decade, according to CEO Justin Morin.

At the same time, he notes that older Jamaicans would rather make a voice call than communicate through text messages.

The upshot is the telecoms has two age demographics pulling in different directions, but current promotions, giveaways and phone plans show promise for talk. And songbird BeyoncÈ may be part of the reason. Tickets to her current show are part of the pot.

Among the younger demographic, persons age 16-34, Digicel Jamaica is seeing "an even split" between voice calling and data usage, but subscribers who are 35 or older prefer to make voice calls, said Morin, citing recent feedback from smartphone customers as the source of the information.

"The overall measure of smartphone users' engagement on data usage involving text, video or VoIP calling is steadily improving - due in large part to faster data throughput via our expanding LTE network that is purpose-built for these types of applications," he said.

As to talk time, there appears to be no variation between the sexes.

"We have not detected significant differences in average talk time based on gender. However, it comes as no surprise that millennials have taken the top spot as the fastest-growing customer segment with regard to the rate of data adoption," said Morin.

"As a significant portion of our customer base, millennials' ability to use, apply and quickly adapt to new, smart technologies is driving demand for our data services. This trend generally tends to hold across our markets in the region."

Digicel is in the process of giving away $10 million in its latest promotional campaign to subscribers who purchase voice and data plans and speak for at least 10 minutes on at least one call in a day.

Digicel is the largest local telecoms with subscribers of around two million. Flow Jamaica follows with subscribers of over 940,000, based on disclosures by ultimate parent company Liberty in March.

Mobile subscription in Jamaica outpaces its nearly 2.8 million population, but Internet coverage is estimated to be about 60 per cent. Digicel in July announced it was on a "mission" to grow Internet penetration to 100 per cent through deployment of its mobile Internet LTE technology across Jamaica. However, it offered no timeline to complete the mission.

The Office of Utilities Regulation, OUR, said Wednesday it will publish more current industry data on the telecoms market in the coming weeks. The latest available for the quarter ending December 2017 estimates mobile revenue at a quarterly $12 billion and Internet revenue at about $5 billion.

Both market segments saw a dip in usage in the quarter even while fixed broadband grew. And new numbers released by Flow's immediate parent Cable & Wireless Communications Plc on Thursday indicate that the fallout is not over. Flow Jamaica lost 16,000 prepaid mobile subscribers in the second quarter ending June. Broadband and cable subscriptions rose, however, by 9,000 customers combined.

Morin said that in the past five years, Jamaica's mobile market has seen a significant shift towards data usage, which is being consumed at a rate that is five times faster.

Special bundles

To claim and retain market share, Digicel Jamaica is less liberal with charges for overages - "we'll ask customers first before charging for out-of-bundle data"; is pitching special bundles at cheap rates; and adjusts rates to entice subscriptions, for example, its 'out of bundle' data now costs 60 per cent less, having been cut from $50 to $20 per megabyte.

The telecoms has also simplified its plans, making them easier to understand, with no fine print. And, "Based on customer feedback, we introduced unlimited rollover data so that you get to keep and use what you've paid for," Morin said.

Digicel has also found that persons will revert to voice communication with the right incentive. With the 'Nuff Data, More Talk' plans that offer more on-net minutes to subscribers, "We are experiencing an increase in traditional voice traffic on our network," he said.

As for the $10-million summer promotion, by the end of the campaign more than 4,000 customers would either have won a daily prize of $100,000, local and overseas vacations, phone credit, data plans, smartphones or a trip for two to see BeyoncÈ live in concert in Miami this summer.

"Our customers have been very enthusiastic about participating daily in the pot of winnings, which carry a total prize value in excess of $10 million," the Digicel CEO said.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com