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Jamaican mobile still a talkers market

Published:Wednesday | July 7, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica's mobile market has grown modestly during the recession, at an annual rate of more than five per cent, the most current industry data shows, but the consumption of talk time and text has ratcheted about five times as fast as revenues, suggesting that the new business came at the price of big giveaways.

Cellphone service providers grew quarterly revenue to J$9.72 billion or an annualised J$38.86 billion, according to the Office of Utilities Regulation's 'Quarterly Report for the Telecommunications Sector' released last week for the three-month period to September 2009, a lag of three quarters.

Revenue grew 5.74 per cent relative to the 2008 third quarter income of J$9.19 billion. OUR said the majority of income, 60.6 per cent or J$5.9 billion, was generated from 'on-net' calls, meaning that the companies earned most from their subscribers calling each other.

The average revenue per user for on-net calls was J$2,162 in the quarter.

The report puts mobile subscriber numbers at 2.879 million, reflecting a 5.27 per cent year-on-year increase from the 2.735 million disclosed in September 2008; and a 2.08 increase, quarter to quarter, from the 2.82 million subscribers counted at June 2009.

Wednesday Business estimates, which assumes that the same rate of growth was maintained to June 2010, puts current subscriptions at 2.994 million to 3.06 million, numbers that track close to the reported customer base of the Big 3 service providers.

Digicel reportedly has two million subscribers, LIME Jamaica 600,000 to 700,000 and Claro Jamaica 400,000 to 500,000 - totaling 3.1 million.

No. 3 player

But Claro is disputing that it is still the No 3 player, insisting it has overtaken LIME, but has not provided updated subscription data to prove the claim made through its public relations agency. The Mexican owned operation has also sniped at the customer base for Digicel as inflated.

The current OUR telecoms report shows the consumption of 'minutes' or phone credit for text, data and voice traffic rose to 80.65 minutes in the quarter ending September 2009, a marginal decline of 0.26 per cent from the 80.86 billion of minutes consumed at the three-month period ending June 2009, but a 25 per cent gain in one year.

The OUR, whose report is compiled from confidential market disclosures from the telecoms, said the majority of credit consumed were SMS/text messages, amounting to 74.85 billion minutes, but that traffic in this category was down in the quarter from 76.199 billion minutes of text transmitted in the April-June 2009 period.

Mobile remains the most lucrative side of the broader phone and data market, with prepaid services bought by a commanding 96.8 per cent of the market.

The fixed line business continued to slide, contracting eight per cent in a year, from 334 million subscribers at September 2008 to 307,620 at September 2009, while revenue dropped 9.62 per cent.

Internet subscriptions was counted at 112,250, with broadband accounting for 109,790, reflecting market growth of 17 per cent.

lavern.clarke@gleanerjm.com