Digicel: Local subscriber base over 100,000
Stabroek News
May 16, 2007

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Digicel Guyana has pushed its subscriber base from 18,400 to over 100,000 after four months in operation, a report for its fiscal year, which ended on March 31 said.

A press release issued yesterday noted that Digicel acquired Cel*Star U Mobile, the second wireless operator in Guyana, which had 18,400 subscribers at the time.

The February 14 launch of Digicel which followed an intense advertising campaign saw long queues at various Digicel outlets. Digicel has not let up its push for subscribers and continues its advertising onslaught that notifies its consumers about its various promotions.

Digicel said its measurement of subscribers is based on a highly conservative approach, where a subscriber is only being defined as "active" if that subscriber had a chargeable event in the last 30 days.

The Digicel Group's subscriber base for the fiscal year was a record 4.7 million subscribers, representing a 144% increase, when compared with the same quarter in the previous fiscal year (March 31, 2006)

"Operating in 22 markets, Digicel continues to experience sustained growth in existing markets as well as new markets. In April 2007, Digicel first entered the Central American market with the launch of mobile service in El Salvador," the release said.

Digicel Haiti also set new records for mobile growth in the region, celebrating its first anniversary since launching its new service on May 3, 2006 with 1.4 million subscribers on its books, according to the company release.

Digicel Group Chief Executive Officer Colm Delves, was quoted as saying in the release: "It's been an exciting financial year as we have expanded our reach beyond the Caribbean and received a resounding vote of confidence from the international financial community." Digicel, Delves said, "enters the new financial year with strong growth prospects and a dedicated workforce that is committed to realizing our goals for 2007 and beyond."

The Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T), Digicel's only competitor on the local scene has also increased its media campaign and recently said it is holding its own on the local market. The latest figures from GT&T's parent company ATN said that GT&T's wireless subscribers had risen from 246,000 to 310,000 in the first quarter of this year.

When Digicel entered the local market it declared that a market penetration of 50% was being sought in a matter of months and the total market penetration was put at about 22% at the time. With the aggressive marketing campaigns by both companies total mobile penetration would have grown over these past months.

Last week, the government granted Digicel interim permission to utilize its earth station to originate and terminate international traffic on its network until international communication is fully restored via the Americas 11 cable used by GT&T. This move saw GT&T moving to the courts to challenge the government's decision. This action by the government followed Digicel's call for the mobile telecommunications market to be liberalized and for the granting of an international licence to route international calls to Guyana. GT&T has pledged to have the Americas 11 cable operational by this weekend, following damage to the cable on the eastern shore of French Guiana over a week ago. A cable ship from St. Croix was expected to arrive yesterday to begin repairs.

Other new markets for Digicel include, Digicel El Salvador. This company was formally launched under the Digicel brand name on April 12 after the October 2006 acquisition of the El Salvador mobile operator, Digicel Holdings Limited (an unrelated company). Digicel El Salvador, the release said, has shown strong subscriber growth since acquisition.

On April 23, Digicel was also awarded a licence to operate a GSM network in the newly liberalized market of Suriname. It was said that with a population of close to 500,000, Suriname's mobile penetration is estimated at over 40%, which offers strong potential for growth. Digicel Suriname is expected to launch later this year.

Digicel also reported that it closed a US$1.4B corporate bond offering in February, representing the largest corporate bond offer in the Caribbean. Five-times over-subscribed, the issue enabled Denis O'Brien, founder and chairman of Digicel, to drive future growth opportunities and acquire 100% ownership.

Digicel, the fastest-growing telecommunications operator in the Caribbean and a new entrant to the Central American market has invested over US$1.5B in the Caribbean and Central America; and directly employs over 3000 persons across its 22 markets.