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Flow Jamaica goes hybrid with data plans to gin up prepaid revenue

Published:Monday | November 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Telecommunications company Flow Jamaica, which is turning to so-called hybrid plans meant to have subscribers spend more on its services, is already seeing a six per cent gain in sales relative to a year ago.

The Jamaican telecoms, whose sales numbers were disclosed by regional parent company Liberty Latin America, or LiLAC, generated revenue of US$276.6 million - which translates to $35.8 billion when converted at the average rate of $129.29 to the greenback.

LiLAC recently introduced hybrid prepaid plans across some of its markets, including Jamaica and Panama. Flow mobile prepaid customers in Jamaica are being offered free talk and WhatsApp 30-day plans as part of a wider move by its owner to bundle services, while extracting more spend per user.

"Our goal is to move a lot more of our customers to LTE, to try to get them off the traditional prepaid packages to something we call a 'hybrid prepaid'," said LiLAC CEO Balan Nair in an investor briefing this month. "We are looking more and more to move our customer base from the low end to the mid and higher tiers," he said.

LiLAC made a net loss of US$112 million over nine months on flat revenues of US$2.7 billion, but the results were an improvement on the previous year's loss of US$377 million.

The hybrid plan is called the 'Unlimited Plan' in Jamaica and 'Plan Siempre' in Panama.

Flow will offer free mobile calls, free WhatsApp and data, which is activated once users top up on credit and then punch in a code. The cheapest 30-day plan in Jamaica costs $2,000 or around US$15, while it costs US$10 in Panama.

Nair said the hybrid plans are being introduced in markets with heavy competition. There are four main operators in a market of nearly four million people in Panama, while Jamaica has two main players, Flow and Digicel, in a market of 2.8 million people.

"Even if [users] completely consume the data allowance, they will still have access to the network and the one application that they use. And WhatsApp will continue to work even if their data limits have been reached. Therefore, they will have connectivity," said Nair. "This should help us turn the prepaid story around."

Flow Jamaica's mobile subscribers hover around 919,000. Jamaica's revenue grew because of overall growth in some services, said Nair, whereas Panama and Bahamas, now beset by competition, continued to see decline.

Nine-month revenues in Panama declined to US$451 million from US$463 million a year earlier, while Bahamas declined to US$177 million from US$201 million.