Alex Hill, MiPhone vice- president for corporate development.
Susan Gordon, Business Reporter
The Digicel Group has partnered with Huawei, a Chinese CDMA provider to increase its inbound roaming traffic to the Caribbean, technology which, to now, MiPhone had some exclusivity on in Jamaica.
Using CDMA technology, Digicel will initially offer roaming to North American visitors to Jamaica, Bermuda, Aruba, Cayman Island and Barbados.
The group which uses GSM technology in Jamaica hopes to seize a market share of the 50 per cent of visitors from the United States to the Caribbean region who are normally CDMA users.
A spokesperson for Digicel said the CDMA2000 1xEV service will be offered simultaneously to existing GSM roaming, making it a first to offer both types of technology on its mobile network. The feature was launched late last year and was announced to be offered on Monday after a series of testings were completed.
Yesterday, MiPhone said the service would notcut into its roaming market, built over the past two years, according to Alex Hill, vice-president for corporate development at Oceanic Digital.
MiPhone a subsidiary of Oceanic Digital Jamaica Limited was the first to offer CDMA roaming to its visitors.
Hill said Miphone has strong relationship with its partners overseas and is considered by them as 'the' CDMA provider in Jamaica.
MiPhone, when it established its network had invested some US$30 million approximately two years ago to install three additional cellular sites in Jamaica, a part of its expansion plans.
No word yet
Wednesday Business was unable to secure comment from Digicel and what it is investing in the CDMA side of its operation, but said it would enhance its service to visiting North Americans.
"When travelling to the Caribbean, many U.S. mobile customers experience poor service and erratic network coverage from CDMA Caribbean operators," said Mario Assaad, Digicel Group chief technical officer.
"Now they can come to the Caribbean and have reliable mobile service by roaming on our seamless mobile network," he continued.
More than 13 million tourists visited the region in 2004 from Canada and the United States, according to latest data found on the Caribbean Tourism Organisation website.
Digicel required no special permit to offer CDMA service, said the Office of Utilities Regulation, noting that the telecoms regulatory regime was revenue neutral.
CDMA technology, according to MiPhone, is four to six times more powerful than TDMA and GSM.
International telecommunications company like Verizon and Sprint are both CDMA providers in the United States, while T Mobile and Cingular are GSM providers.
In Jamaica, Cable and Wireless Jamaica is to fully exit TDMA at the end of this month, and go fully GSM.
Digicel says it intends to market the newly offered feature through the airports and travel magazines.
The group currently has GSM roaming agreements with 245 partners in 130 countries. The internal rates are negotiated with each of these partners, but details are not disclosed, the company said, for competitive reasons.
"The customer visiting the Caribbean and roaming with Digicel would pay the roaming rates of its home network, for example Verizon, and is not billed directly by Digicel," said the company.
Digicel recently signed a three-year partnership with Vodafone Group allowing its customers to seamlessly access their home services when they travel.