Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor
The price war in the mobile telephone market became sweeter for consumers at the start of this morning as Digicel introduced sharp cuts in its call rates across networks.
Effective today, pre-paid customers using a Digicel phone to call any other network will pay a low of $2.49 per minute to a high of $2.99 per minute under a suite of new plans announced by the company.
This is a massive reduction - from a high of $14 per minute to a low of $8.99 per minute - in what it was costing to use a Digicel phone to call any other network up to yesterday.
With a $2.99 cost per minute to call any other network from a LIME phone, Jamaicans will no longer need to determine which phone to use to call which network.
After promising a strong reaction to the Office of Utilities Regulations' decision to slash the cross-network termination rate from $5.00 to $1.10 effective July 1, Digicel announced its changes, yesterday.
At its lowest, it will cost $2.49 per minute to call a LIME phone from a Digicel phone, but that call will be billed at a per-minute rate, with customers paying for one minute for each fraction of a minute they talk.
With the $2.99 plan, customers will be billed on a per-second basis and will pay for the exact talk time.
According to Digicel, its customers are now able to choose one of six plans that best suits their individual needs.
But in responding to the announcement by Digicel, LIME said yesterday it hoped that the new rate structure would be simple and easy to understand.
"Multiple calling plans with confusing information that requires customers to do one thing to get something else will only further confuse the Jamaican public and probably not deliver any incremental value," LIME's CEO Garfield Sinclair told The Gleaner.
"We continue to believe that a simple, low rate is what consumers need," Sinclair added.
Digicel's line-up includes the Brawta Plan, the Gimme Five Extra Plan, the Double Bubble Plan, and the $2.99 Plan - all with per-second billing - plus the $2.49 Plan and the $2.89 Sweet Plan with per-minute billing.
"We asked our customers what they wanted, and the answers we got were great value, lots of choice, and more freeness," said Digicel Jamaica CEO, Barry O'Brien.
"We have captured all the information that has come in to us and we have put it into plans we are announcing today (yesterday).
"The key findings of these plans are that our customers want choices, and they want value, but value for some people is that they want additional freeness, and value for some is that they want the lowest rates in the market," O'Brien told The Gleaner as he pointed to the difference in prices, billing cycles, and benefits in the plans.
'Everybody loves freeness'
O'Brien argued that the $2.99 plan with per-second billing means customers get a great low rate on the Digicel network and to any other local mobile network at any time.
"We know that everybody loves freeness, and presently, over half our customers' talk time is free, and more than 90 per cent of Digicel texts sent are free due to our great value offers," said O'Brien.
The Digicel CEO noted that the new plans did not apply to post-paid customers.
Post-paid customers are already getting tremendous value and they currently get rates as low as $1 per minute, so this is primarily for the pre-paid customer at the moment.