Digicel $25 million plan
Mobile telecommunications company Digicel is about to invest another $25 million in Barbados.
And it is pumping all of it into a 4G network that has already benefited from $30 million in funding since being launched in 2011, new Digicel (Barbados) Limited chief executive officer Mark Linehan told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY.
But speaking at the company’s new headquarters in the Williams Tower corporate complex at Warrens, St Michael, the official said this additional expenditure, being undertaken in response to Barbados’ “phenomenal appetite” for increased data capacity, was not the end of the spending.
Digicel will shortly open a new 1 500 square-foot “full service” store in Oistins, Christ Church, and has several other projects in the works, which Linehan said was not only a show of confidence in the Barbados economy, but meant increased job opportunities for a number of Barbadians.
“Data is becoming more and more popular every day; in fact, data usage on our network has doubled in the last 12 months. We have invested $30 million in our 4G network to date and we are going to be doubling that over the next 12 months, with the majority of the investment happening in the next three to four months,” he said.
“I think that speaks volumes for the growing demand for data out there. The 4G network to me is delivering on the needs of our customers, but they are always looking for faster speeds, so right across Barbados we will be ensuring that they have access on our network.”
When Digicel started operating in Barbados nine-and-a-half years ago, Linehan noted, customers simply wanted a handset to make and receive calls, but he said this had changed to such an extent in recent years that the majority of handsets on its network “are smart phones” and their fingers were doing most of the ‘talking’.
The company’s decision to invest the additional $25 million at this time was also the result of an analysis of local usage patterns, which showed the most visited Internet sites and popular applications used in Barbados included YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Google and Twitter.
“The growth that we have seen in our 4G network has been phenomenal. The majority of handsets on our network are smart phones, the majority of our data revenues are coming through our 4G network, so I think that speaks volumes as to the usage of our customers,” he said.
“Over time with the advent of technology, a first-time user today of a phone is not so much interested in voice. They use voice but they are very much focused on data without even realizing that they are using data. It’s all about social networking, it’s all about staying connected with your friends and family.”
Linehan also said Digicel was unfazed by the fact that the Barbados economy was struggling and intended to continue investing.
“People ask me ‘the economy is going through a difficult period now what’s Digicel’s response to the current economic climate and why do you continue to operate?’ And I say ‘well we are here for our customers and our customers are telling us they want us to deliver on their needs’,” he said.
Linehan said too that with the Barbados market currently “saturated” with mobile phones, so much so that “penetration of handsets is probably 110 per cent”, Digicel would be looking to capitalize on other revenue streams.
This included mobile advertising, an increased focus on corporate clients, and expanded information community technology offerings.