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Digicel retrofitting stores for 4G

Published:Sunday | August 22, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Digicel Jamaica executives test the new 4g WiMax service launched by the mobile company at Spanish Court Hotel, New Kingston, on Friday, August 20. From left are chief executive officer Mark Linehan; Georgia Bennett, senior manager for outbound operations and customer care; Jim Hogan, director for broadband services, and Donovan White, head of marketing.
Laptops on display that Digicel Jamaica will offer under bundled 4G WiMax services. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

With a promise that the network will be 10 times faster than the competition, Digicel Jamaica on Friday launched its new 4G WiMax services, finally delivering on a plan that has been in the works for years.

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"Jamaica needs better broadband, and Digicel broadband 4G will do that," said Digicel Jamaica's Chief Executive Officer Mark Linehan.

"The next stage of our evolution and our phase is all about broadband."

The network, built by ZTE Corporation at a cost of J$2 billion, is the first WiMax network in Jamaica. It now covers 60 per cent of the population, or 100 per cent of the urbanised areas, with plans to roll out additional sites, based on consumer demand.

Sunday Business also learned that 100 stores are being retrofitted with display facilities for the product.

On signing up, the prepaid customer will pay a one-off cost of J$3,950, plus GCT, and will have the choice of a seven- 14- or 30-day pricing plan, at a cost of $1,200, J$2,000 and J$3,000, respectively.

Postpaid users will pay a J$2500 deposit on a 30-day package. The deposit is non-refundable for a year.

Bundled packages are also available - laptop and modem - at a cost of $54,850 plus GCT for postpaid, and $58,950 plus GCT for prepaid.

Digicel acknowledges that some clients - its target is at least 153,000 subscribers to start - may find the bundles challenging to afford.

"That's why we have linked up with Courts, linked up with NCB and the credit unions and have come up with financing options for consumers - whether it is 12, 24 or 36 months," said Linehan.

Customers will use the same top-up cards that are used for mobile phones for adding broadband, but the USB modem, or dongle - for those on the go - is not yet on offer.

Linehan was not willing to say what his projected growth rate is for WiMax, neither would he say what return his company is expecting on the investment.

"We built out a business case relating to this particular product, and we believe it is going to be a success and will see the payback - the return on investment - in a very short period of time," he said.

Quizzed as to when WiMax mobile handsets would be available to the local market, Linehan said, "it's not too far away, they will come in time. I would say in the next year or so."