Digicel launches $60M investment with free credit, BlackBerry service
Stabroek News
February 15, 2007

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Caribbean telecommunications giant Digicel has plunged into the local industry bringing with it fierce competition and a new era of choice for mobile customers.

With an initial investment of US$60M, the region's fastest growing wireless carrier has established a state-of-the-art network and yesterday opened the doors of 50 retail outlets. Guyanese will be able to make their selection from a wide range of brand name handsets including the Motorola F3, Nokia 110 and Konka E100 with prices starting at $2900 and, to celebrate the company's entry into the local market; customers will receive a free gift and $500 credit with every handset purchased. Digicel will also be introducing the BlackBerry to the local scene. Digicel also hosted a concert at the National Park yesterday featuring Grammy-nominated, international recording R&B and Hip Hop star Akon, Jamaican reggae group TOK and Guyana's very own X2.

Digicel operates in 22 markets and has made a total investment of more than US$1.5B in the Caribbean, Central and South America. The company, which started operations in 2001, has more than four million customers. Digicel also contributes to community development by investing heavily in sports. It is the lead sponsor of Carib-bean sports teams including the West Indies Cricket team, Special Olympics teams across the Caribbean and is the title sponsor of the Digicel Caribbean Football Union Cup which involves over 30 Caribbean countries and is an important qualifier towards the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

At a press conference held on Tuesday to launch its products and special offers Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tim Bahrani said since the company's start it has experienced incredible growth and within the last four years has made acquisitions in seven islands and serves 23 million people. He said when the Guyana acquisition took place last November the company had to remain quiet because a lot of work had to be done. Digicel has created 200 jobs in Guyana thus providing employment for about 2000 people, Bahrani said, and, in the last three months employees have participated in extensive training in the company's operations. "We have a vision that more people in Guyana will have access to the telecommunication.... We will be covering this country from east to west and north to south," the CEO said. He said service will be available in Georgetown, Linden, Bartica, Lethem and in far-flung areas like Mabaruma. Bahrani said the company has an International Satellite Licence, which would allow them to reach the remote areas in Guyana. He said they did encounter challenges because of the land layout but they have come up with alternatives.

Bahrani also gave assurances that Digicel has the best network, outstanding value, world-class customer service and unbeatable innovations. He said the company has an average of 60% base in each of their markets and connects the Caribbean with the rest of the world. The CEO said the cell phones, which come directly from the manufacturers, will include per second billing, free voicemail re-trieval and roll over minutes. Bahrani also boasted that the company had the best roaming offer; pre-paid and post paid roaming service is offered in all of Digicel's 22 markets.

For the pre-paid service, 'top up' will be done by purchasing the Digicel FLEX cards which are valued at $500, $1000 and $2000; direct 'top up', which is a voucher-free method of adding credit to your pre-paid account; Easy FLEX, a phone to phone credit transfer; Top U Up, which allows someone with a FLEX card to send it directly to another Digicel pre-paid account and finally the CaribFLEX which allows friends and family in the US, UK and Canada to send credit directly to your phone. Meanwhile Marketing Director Richard Gill said the Motofane F3 handset will be an exclusive handset to Guyana for the first time. He said that the company intends to give Guyanese a chance to experience the best network and reduced congestion, among other services. He said the company will also introduce the Nokia 112.

Bahrani, commenting on the issue of look-alike advertisements in three daily newspapers, said he is disappointed about the way things have started out. Digicel has also filed lawsuits against the three media houses. "Digicel spent a lot of money on branding which comes after lots of investments... We moved to stop some look-alike that copied our branding. We are still in consultation with our lawyers over the issue," he said.

Just before the speeches, several models, some dressed up in the 'Firestorm' mash costumes showcased the cell phones that will be available today. Digicel Public Rela-tions Officer Alex Graham and Business Sales Manager Nalini Vieira also attended the press conference.