Digicel goes hardline

BitDepth#959 for October 21

DigicelTT CEO John Delves speaks with the media after the company’s launch of Fibre to Business on Thursday. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.
DigicelTT CEO John Delves speaks with the media after the company’s launch of Fibre to Business on Thursday. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

The spotlight for the evening at La Cantina last week was supposed to fall on Digicel’s new offering, Fibre to Business, a cable based enhancement of its thriving Digicel Business initiatives.

But CEO John Delves couldn’t just leave it at that. Flush with the excitement and buzz in the crowded room and the enormous support present for another provider of cable based broadband, he let the other shoe drop. 

All that’s standing between Digicel entering the cable entertainment business is an approval from the Telecommunications Authority. The company is ready and apparently champing at the bits, as it were, to become a quadplay provider, offering mobile and landline telephony, broadband access and cable entertainment.

A lot of that’s likely to be riding on the successful deployment of the company’s local infrastructure, a huge and costly undertaking that’s underway in Port of Spain and will be deployed in major business centres in the East and South of T&T in the coming months.

“Digicel Business,” noted CEO John Delves, “is the fastest growing sector of the company.”

To support that aggressive growth, Digicel plans to build out the majority of its fibre optic cable infrastructure for business within 12 months, with service level agreements for uptime for customers of its cloud based solutions and upscale services for larger companies like Metro Ethernet.

“People think fibre is only for big business,” Delves said, “but this solution targets small and medium-sized businesses who want a competitive advantage.”

To that end, La Cantina wasn’t just a launch location for the new service, it was also a satisfied customer of the new Fibre to Business product and owner Kester Sylvester, who had pre-recorded his testimonial, eagerly took the microphone to offer his own impromptu live endorsement of Digicel’s commitment to offer site specific solutions for his establishment.

With 100MB connectivity and customised installation on the menu, Sylvester was swooning at the difference in his restaurant’s WiFi offerings.

But this infrastructure deployment is only the first pass that Digicel will be making at its customer base.

The company has made big investments in regional broadband infrastructure, buying 3,100km of submarine fibre optic cable from Global Caribbean Fibre in December 2013 and Guadeloupe’s Loret Group and Caribbean Fibre Holdings in early September, adding data backbone connectivity to 12 countries in the region from T&T to Puerto Rico with connectivity to the US.

Digicel has to build its infrastructure in T&T, Barbados and Haiti from scratch, but it’s been briskly buying existing fibre optic networks in other countries over the last 11 months.

In July, the company bought Telstar Cable’s cable and fibre network in Jamaica. It acquired WIV Cable TV and its broadband subsidiary, TCT in the Turks and Caicos Islands in April. SAT Telecommunications in Dominica was added to Digicel’s portfolio in February and Caribbean Cable Communications Holdings of Anguilla, Nevis and Montserrat was bought in November 2013.

Digicel’s hopes to go quadplay and to branch into cable telephony and entertainment might be making Flow and TSTT nervous, but the company hasn’t stopped there, and media houses might want to take note of what comes next.

Digicel is now dipping its toe in content creation, buying a majority stake in St Lucia based regional cable sports agency SportsMax in September from International Media Content Limited.

In October, the company trumpeted the success of its regional news services, LoopTT (there is a Jamaican and Barbadian edition) and CatchOn Sport, both of which emphasise pithy news reporting for a younger audience reading on mobile devices via a mobile optimised website and dedicated apps for multiple handsets (currently available for Android only).

After a month of operations in T&T, Trend Media, a wholly owned subsidiary of Digicel launched in August, claimed in a press release from Digicel to have “revolutionised the Caribbean media landscape,” and will next “pioneer innovation in online and mobile advertising solutions.”

While Digicel has business operations in emerging markets around the globe, it is spending big in the Caribbean region and intends to consolidate the presence it began in 2001 with its first office in Jamaica.

“The Caribbean is the [business] core,” John Delves noted, “It makes sense to invest here.”