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Monday, June 17, 2013


The buildup was perfect. The marketing team from LIME had done well. Unlike the Digicel rebranding event dubbed “Be Extraordinary”, which went by almost unnoticed, LIME was not about to make this an ordinary event.

The day had arrived and the climax was near. The event was MC’ed by the inimitable Mr. Pringles, at the JQ Mall, in the heart of Rodney Bay. Our passionate Groovy Soca King, Tennyson John, now also a LIME ambassador, was on standby to hype up the crowd. A total of 7 or more broadcast houses had been hired to cover the event (who said we had too many stations in the country!). Present were distinguished guests such as the ubiquitous President of the Senate, Claudius Francis, and a commissioner from the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC), Roderick Cherry. Of noticeable absence was the ‘techy’ Minister of Technology, Dr. Jimmy Fletcher. At 10:32 and a half, the master of ceremonies invited on stage, none other than the Country Manager for LIME, Chris Williams, to announce, the “BIG ONE”, the event which would “shake up the Telecom landscape” forever in Saint Lucia.

Judging by online feedback from the social networks and one-on-one interactions with a few friends, most expected LIME to announce the immediate launch of 4G mobile technology during that Saturday morning event. Alas, that was not to be. An obviously disappointed customer, “ML”, wrote on the page Facebook of LIME, “that’s the BIG surprise?”. Like him, many appeared also disappointed. Could this be the reason the Minister decided to stay away?

Personally, I had predicted one of three outcomes, a reduction in mobile calling rates, an increase in broadband speed, or the introduction of 4G. It turned out to be the first option. Like its counterpart in Jamaica, LIME St. Lucia, announced a new flat rate, “ONE RATE”, for prepaid callers to other LIME, Digicel, Karib Kable and other customers in the Caribbean region – unlike Jamaica, though,  the new rate is not 3 cents US per minute(a 60% rate decrease) but rather 60 cents (approximately 23 cents USD) per minute.  This represents a decrease in the range of 13-24 percent for some destinations and an increase of 20% for calling other OECS countries (See Fig 1 below for more details). Jamaica’s flat rate also applies to calls made to the USA, Canada and the UK.

Not to be outdone by LIME, Digicel decided on the same Saturday morning to sell cellphones for only $10. Judging by video footage from HTS, this created a black-Friday type mad rush among customers, as they tried to squeeze through the door of one of the outlets downtown Castries to get a piece of the pie.

Unfortunately, postpaid customers like me, will not benefit from the announcement made by LIME yesterday. Nevertheless, this sort of competition among the providers is commendable. The regulators (NTRC/ECTEL), who seem to have gone asleep over the past few years must now rise; they need to analyze these ‘deals’ to ensure that they are clear(without any clandestine motives) and in the interest of consumers. They need to move quickly to ensure that the cross-network termination rates are reduced; they need to encourage the operators to implement Mobile Number Portability, MNP, which will allow customers to switch providers without switching numbers. What became of this exercise which was started some years ago?

 And may the liberalization of the telecom industry, fought so hard by our current Prime Minister, Dr Kenny D. Anthony, and his team 14 years ago continue to encourage this sought of healthy competition among the operators. Did somebody say 4G next?

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