Digicel

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Digicel Group Limited
Type Private - owned by Denis O'Brien
Industry Mobile telecommunications
Founded April 19, 2001
Headquarters Kingston, Jamaica
Key people Colm Delves (CEO)
Denis O'Brien (Executive Chairman)
Products Mobile networks, Telecom services, WiMAX Broadband, Etc.
Employees ~5,500 (2008)
Website Digicel Group Ltd.
Digicel Pacific Ltd.

Digicel is a mobile phone network provider operating in 31 markets across the Caribbean, Central America, and Oceania regions. The company is owned by Irishman Denis O'Brien, is incorporated in Bermuda, and based in Jamaica. It has about 13 million wireless users.

As of 2012, Digicel's markets comprise: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, Belize, Bonaire, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, El Salvador, Fiji, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Nauru, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks and Caicos, and Vanuatu.

History[edit]

Caribbean and Central America[edit]

Wireless service in the Caribbean had been under the control of the large British company Cable & Wireless, the longtime provider of telecommunications services in the region. Cable & Wireless had little competition or incentive to change, and wireless service was considered expensive and poor in quality by Caribbean customers.[1]

In 2001, however, Jamaica decided to open its phone market up for competition. Digicel, owned by Irish entrepreneur Denis O'Brien, first established itself in April 2001 in Jamaica. It grew to 100,000 customers there in approximately 100 days. In the ten years since the initial launch, Digicel's Jamaican customer base has grown to over two million users. The company has a marketshare of over 70% in Jamaica.[1]

In Haiti, where they launched operations in May 2006, the company now has 2.4 million customers making Haiti Digicel's largest customer base to date.

The majority of Digicel networks started up in countries where the telecommunications market had been newly liberalised. As a result there have been numerous rows between Digicel executives and former state incumbent operators over interconnect agreements. This has led to Digicel taking some incumbent operators to court.[2][3]

A Digicel storefront in Castries, Saint Lucia, in 2012

In 2006, Digicel expanded into the Central American mainland as well as the Pacific. On September 2006, Digicel acquired an unrelated mobile phone provider Digicel Holdings in El Salvador, rebranding it as El Nuevo Digicel. Digicel El Salvador has now overtaken Claro as number two operator in the country. In December 2007, Digicel won a highly competitive bid for a mobile license in Honduras and Digicel won a licence to operate in Panama in May 2008. Digicel launched in Honduras and the British Virgin Islands in November 2008 and in Panama in December 2008.

In 2007, Digicel also expanded their presence in South America and in the country of Guyana, acquiring U*Mobile, now rebranded as Digicel Guyana Ltd as well as launching in Suriname in December 2007[4] and French Guiana in June 2006.

In February 2007, Digicel signed a three-year partnership agreement with Vodafone. Though both remained separate and independent companies, the agreement, which included Digicel's sister operation in Samoa, resulted in the offering of new roaming capabilities. The two groups also became preferred roaming partners of each other.[5][6]

In February 2011, Digicel took a controlling stake in Netxar Technologies, the leading systems integrator in the Caribbean region.[7] Digicel also has coverage in St. Martin and St. Barts in the Caribbean.

In March 2011, Digicel sold its operations in Honduras and El Salvador to Mexican telecom giant America Movil, in turn America Movil sold all of its operations in Jamaica to Digicel. The latter actions strengthened America Movil's dominance of the Latin American market, while Digicel strengthened its hold on its domestic market. In March 2012, Digicel made the acquisition of Comcel / Voila, its main competitor in Haiti, for $97 million.

The company's largest competitors in the Caribbean region are LIME, an outgrowth of Cable & Wireless, Claro Americas, part of América Móvil, and Columbus Communications.

Myanmar[edit]

Digicel announced that it would invest $9 billion in a mobile phone network in Myanmar, which has virtually no telephone infrastructure. Digicel plans to have 96 percent coverage in Myanmar by the end of 2015.[8] However, Digicel lost the bid to Telenor and Ooredo to get license in Myanmar.[9]

Digicel Pacific[edit]

Digicel's sister operation in the Pacific Islands region operates in Samoa and in Papua New Guinea running at 900mhz GSM with GPRS & Edge data services and in PNG Digicel is now rolling out 3G UMTS/HSDA also data services, also via 900mhz), Vanuatu, Tonga, Fiji, Nauru as well as an experimental licence in the Solomon Islands and Tahiti.[10]

Digicel Fiji on 3 November 2010 changed its logo with a shade of blue in the last letters "cel". The blue colour represents the background colour of the Fiji flag and coincided with Digicel Fiji's new ad campaign slogan "Fiji Matters To Us".[11] As well as being partners, Digicel and Vodafone are also rival operators in Fiji, where Digicel Fiji was launched and Vodafone owns a minority (49%) stake in Vodafone Fiji.

Digicel Mobile Money launched in Fiji in July 2010 with subsequent deployments in Tonga (January 2011), Samoa (March 2011), Vanuatu (July 2011) and Nauru and Papua New Guinea in progress. In Vanuatu, similar to other countries, Digicel reduced the cost of mobile phone ownership dramatically making it available to a much larger number of the population. At launch the cost of a phone was 500 vatu compared to the over 1,000 vatu for the incumbent operator Telecom Vanuatu Limited with its Smile network.

In addition, Digicel was the first to deploy mobile money services in these countries[12] creating an ecosystem of agents that includes the main commercial banks ANZ Bank, BSP, Westpac, National Bank Vanuatu as well as key money movers such as PostFiji and VanuatuPost. The service has been supported by The Pacific Financial Inclusion Program, AusAid and GSM Association's Mobile Money for the Unbanked initiative.[13]

Jamaican telecoms saga[edit]

Attempts by the Jamaican telecoms regulator, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), to regulate the Jamaican telecoms market resulted in a drawn-out court battle with Digicel throughout the 2000s.

In April 2002, Phillip Paulwell, the then Jamaican minister of industry, commerce and technology, in response to a complaint from Digicel, instructed the OUR to refrain from interfering with the pricing policies of Digicel.[14] At the time, Digicel had been charging Cable and Wireless an interconnectivity fee each time Cable and Wireless customers called into Digicel’s network that was higher than top fee established by the OUR. The OUR thus instructed Digicel to price its service accordingly.[14]

Following a judicial review, it was ruled that Paulwell had no power to issue the directive to the OUR. However, in 2003, Digicel took the case to Jamaica’s Supreme Court and won, though the OUR subsequently appealed the ruling to the appellate court. The Court of Appeal ruled that Paulwell’s directive was outside his ministerial powers and invalid, and the OUR had no obligation to comply with it.[14] Digicel then again appealed the ruling by taking the matter to the Privy Council, Jamaica’s final court of appeal, though it proved unsuccessful after the Privy Council, upholding the decision of the Court of Appeal, again ruled that Paulwell’s directive was ultra vires and that OUR had been correct in ignoring him.[15]

The judgement also meant LIME (formerly Cable & Wireless Jamaica) was allowed to keep the £22 million Digicel had earlier been ordered by the Jamaican courts to pay LIME for termination rates in respect of incoming calls.[16]

Paulwell’s integrity was also questioned in 2011 when it emerged via Wikileaks that U.S. officials based in Kingston, Jamaica's capital, had described him as a “conflicted and meddling” minister.[16] The diplomatic cable, despatched in 2007, detailed Paulwell’s alleged mismanagement of the Universal Access Fund, which was set up by the United States Federal Communications Commission in 1997 to meet Congressional universal service goals as mandated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.[16] It also documented how he had paid attorney Minette Palmer, his former personal advisor, almost USD $450,000 over a 19-month period, despite that no internet facilities had been provided in schools during that time as the scheme intended. To further compound matter was the revelation that Mr. Paulwell had recently awarded a cellular licence to a company controlled by Ms. Palmer and her husband.[17]

Tax raid[edit]

In 2012, Digicel’s Jamaican offices were raided by the Tax Administration of Jamaica (TAJ) as part of the tax administration’s exercise of auditing various sectors of the Jamaican economy, including all companies in the telecoms sector.[18] A high-profile public debate broke out after the TAJ was forced to resort to the courts to secure information about Digicel that the TAJ had requested. At the same time, the TAJ also denied media reports that a tax assessment had been served on Digicel, and stressed that the TAJ had not provided any figures indicating tax owed by Digicel.[18]

However, Digicel filed an affidavit to the Jamaican Supreme Court stating that the TAJ had asserted that there was a $1.26 billion discrepancy in the numbers it had calculated and the amount Digicel had included in its GCT (general consumption tax) returns, but that it was “now abundantly clear that TAJ completely misunderstood the data it been provided with and – rather than seeking clarity – it arrived at its own grossly inaccurate conclusions”.[18] The Jamaican Ministry of Finance and Planning hit back saying that it had received significant technical assistance from multilateral agencies, as well as international bilateral assistance. The TAJ accused Digicel of making “unfortunate” and “misleading” accusations against the tax administration, and said it would not be deterred from its auditing exercise as it had “irrefutable proof” of considerable revenue leakage taking place in Jamaica.[18]

Sponsorships[edit]

Volunteers from Digicel distributed several tons of food to Haitian citizens in Port-au-Prince, in a distribution sponsored by the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development following the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Digicel is a leading sponsor of Caribbean, Central American and Asia-Pacific sports teams, including the Special Olympics teams throughout these regions. Digicel sponsors the West Indies cricket team. It was the title sponsor of the Digicel Caribbean Cup during 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2010. It also sponsors the Cayman Islands Digicel Cup in football, starting in 2006. Digicel sponsors the highest level of football in Trinidad & Tobago, the TT Pro League, known for sponsorship reasons as "The Digicel Pro League".

In the Pacific, Digicel is the sponsor of several national rugby teams and also sponsors the Vanuatu national cricket team.[19] It is the sponsor of the Digicel Cup for rugby in Fiji. It also sponsors Taça Digicel, the second top division of the Federaçao Futebol Timor-Leste.

In April they were announced as the first global sponsor of the 2013 inaugural tournament for the Caribbean Premier League.[20] This multi-year deal follows their strategy for supporting cricket and other sporting events in the Caribbean. “The CPL is a perfect fit for Digicel. We’re huge fans of West Indies cricket and this is a great opportunity for us to invest not only in what will be an amazing event, but also in the young cricketers who will benefit from around the region”, stated Digicel Group Marketing Operations Director Kieran Foley. “Having seen all the plans for the inaugural tournament, we know the CPL will be a spectacle like nothing else seen in the region and we are looking forward to being front and centre of the action.” [21]

Digicel Foundation[edit]

Digicel and its shareholders set up a foundation that has been actively involved in charitable work throughout the Caribbean involving a wide range of school and sports projects as well as providing some J$200 million in assistance after Hurricane Ivan devastated many of the islands, especially Grenada and the Cayman Islands.[22]

To date the Digicel Foundation in Jamaica has allocated US$7 million to sustainable development community projects in the country. In Haiti the Digicel Foundation built 20 primary schools in its first year. Digicel promised $5 million in aid to Haiti after the catastrophic 2010 Haiti earthquake struck Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. The company has been responsible for several major commitments to re-building Haiti, including the restoration of the historic Iron Market[23] and a commitment to build a new hotel to further encourage economic growth in the capital.

Asia Pacific operations[edit]

The Asia Pacific operations of Digicel Group.

Digicel Asia Pacific Territories
Territory GSM Frequencies CDMA Frequencies UMTS Frequencies LTE Frequencies Local Sites
 Fiji 900 MHz NO CDMA 1800 MHz (planned) Digicel Fiji
 Nauru 900 MHz NO CDMA Digicel Nauru
 Papua New Guinea 900 MHz NO CDMA 900 MHz unknown Digicel Papua New Guinea
 Samoa 900 MHz NO CDMA 2100 MHz Digicel Samoa
 Tonga 900 MHz NO CDMA Digicel Tonga
 Vanuatu 900 MHz NO CDMA Digicel Vanuatu

Caribbean and Central American operations[edit]

The Caribbean and Central American operations of Digicel Group (April 2014).

Digicel Caribbean & Central American Territories
Territory GSM Frequencies CDMA Frequencies UMTS Frequencies LTE Frequencies Local Sites
 Anguilla 900 MHz NO CDMA 850/1900 MHz Digicel Anguilla
 Antigua and Barbuda 850/900 MHz NO CDMA 2100 MHz 700 MHz Digicel Antigua & Barbuda
 Aruba 900/1800 MHz 1900 MHz 2100 MHz Digicel Aruba
 Barbados 900/1800 MHz 1900 MHz 2100 MHz Digicel Barbados
 Bermuda 1900 MHz NO CDMA 850 MHz Digicel Bermuda
 Bonaire 900/1800 MHz NO CDMA unknown Digicel Bonaire
 Cayman Islands 900 MHz 1900 MHz 2100 MHz 700 MHz (planned),
1800 MHz (active)
Digicel Cayman Islands
 Curaçao 900/1900 MHz NO CDMA unknown Digicel Curaçao
 Dominica 900/1900 MHz NO CDMA 2100 MHz Digicel Dominica
 El Salvador 900 MHz NO CDMA 900 MHz Digicel El Salvador
 French Guiana 900/1800 MHz NO CDMA Digicel French Windies & French Guiana
 Grenada 900/1800 MHz NO CDMA 2100 MHz Digicel Grenada
 Guadeloupe 900/1800 MHz NO CDMA Digicel French Windies & French Guiana
 Guyana 900 MHz NO CDMA Digicel Guyana
 Haiti 900/1800 MHz NO CDMA 2100 MHz Digicel Haiti
 Honduras 1900 MHz NO CDMA Digicel Honduras
 Jamaica 900/1800 MHz 1900 MHz 2100 MHz Digicel Jamaica
 Martinique 900/1800 MHz NO CDMA Digicel French Windies & French Guiana
 Panama 1900 MHz NO CDMA 1900 MHz Digicel Panamá
 Saint Kitts and Nevis 900/1800 MHz NO CDMA 2100 MHz Digicel Saint Kitts & Nevis
 Saint Lucia 900/1800 MHz NO CDMA 2100 MHz Digicel St. Lucia
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 900/1800 MHz NO CDMA 2100 MHz Digicel Saint Vincent & the Grenadines
 Suriname 900/1800 MHz 1900 MHz 2100 MHz Digicel Suriname
 Trinidad and Tobago 850/1900 MHz 1900 MHz 1900 MHz Digicel Trinidad & Tobago
 Turks and Caicos Islands 900/1900 MHz NO CDMA 2100 MHz Digicel Turks & Caicos


References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Cauley, Leslie (27 August 2006). "Digicel makes cellphone connection in Jamaica". USA Today. 
  2. ^ High Court Action by Digicel Against Cable & Wireless Over Unlawful Behaviour
  3. ^ Breaking News: Irish vs British in Digicel TSTT Spat
  4. ^ "Suriname grants telecom licences to Digicel and Intelsur" Caribbean Net News, August 17, 2006
  5. ^ Vodafone and Digicel sign 3 year partnership agreement - JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM
  6. ^ http://www.vodafone.com/article_with_thumbnail/0,3038,OPCO%253D40000%2526CATEGORY_ID%253D200%2526MT_ID%253Dpr%2526LANGUAGE_ID%253D0%2526CONTENT_ID%253D294407,00.html
  7. ^ http://www.digicelgroup.com/en/media-center/press-releases/achievements/digicel-acquires-netxar-technologies
  8. ^ Maierbrugger, Arno (5 June 2013). "Digicel and Soros pledge $9b for Myanmar". Inside Investor. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  9. ^ http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Digicel-loses-out-to-Norwegian--Quatari-telecoms-in-Myanmar-bid_14594881.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ http://www.redknee.com/news_events/news_releases/archive_2007/208/.
  11. ^ 'Digicel's new look', Fiji TImes, 4 Nov 2010 (http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?ref=archive&id=159180)
  12. ^ "Welcome to Digicel Mobile Money". Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Mobile Money for the Unbanked". GSM World. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c "Blow to Digicel". Jamaica: Jamaica Observer. 22 January 2010. 
  15. ^ "KCOB Lawyers Score Major Victory in Privy Council". Jamaica: KC Times. March 2010. 
  16. ^ a b c "WIKILEAKS - Paulwell's Nine Lives". Jamaica: The Gleaner. 5 June 2011. 
  17. ^ "Jamaica: Universal Access Fund - A Meddling Minister And Issues Of Conflict". Jamaica: CableGateSearch. 23 July 2007. 
  18. ^ a b c d Hall, Arthur (May 10, 2012). "Gov't Defends Digicel Tax Raid". Jamaica Gleaner. 
  19. ^ "Digicel Sponsors Vanuatu National Cricket Team" Pacific Magazine 19 May 2008
  20. ^ http://cwc.digicelcricket.com/news/1998-digicel-announced-as-major-sponsor-for-caribbean-premier-league-
  21. ^ http://cplt20.com/news/digicel-announced-major-sponsor-caribbean-premier-league
  22. ^ "Our Mission". Digicel Foundation. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  23. ^ Ed Vulliamy, "How an Irish telecoms tycoon became Haiti's only hope of salvation", The Guardian, January 9, 2011

External links[edit]