Navin Balkissoon

General manager of Digicel Home and Entertainment, Navin Balkissoon.

DIGICEL Play, which is now Digicel+, has reached 100,000 customers in Trinidad and Tobago in just five years and it is meeting its profit target year on year.

Last Friday Digicel+ which is based on fibre-to-the-home, celebrated its five year anniversary.

The company boasts of being the #1 broadband provider in Port of Spain (roll out of the service started in the capital city and is still continuing throughout the island).

In an interview with Express Business last Thursday at Digicel’s Maraval Road offices in Port of Spain, general manager of Digicel Home and Entertainment, Navin Balkissoon said he believes what contributed to the 100,000 customers coming on board is the fact that Digicel came out with top features that the other cable networks did not provide in Trinidad and Tobago.

“With Digicel+ you have the ability to pause live TV, fast forward and rewind the television show you may have missed which was not offered before by the other cable networks. Two years ago we introduced a package where customers could customise their channels and add on as well for a price ranging from $29 to $149.”

Balkissoon said the company offers a starting package at $375 with home entertainment and broadband delivering at 100 mbps. Top-tier packages runs as high as $1,299 with 500 mbps.

According to the Digicel general manger, the initial investment to construct the fibre-to-the-home was at a cost of US$300 million.

“We invested in the latest technology and over US$5 million is spent every year to install customers as the fibre being used to run to the homes is expensive. But in order to get good quality home entertainment and broadband the money being spent is worth it.”

He noted that Digicel + remains a profitable business and over the past five years they have been over achieving their target, due to the demand for the product by subscribers.

Challenges

Balkissoon outlined there are some challenges in some locations to introduce the home entertainment and broadband, as the fibre infrastructure needs to expand.

“The company is awaiting the expansion plan to be approved by Digicel Group organisation who looks at the overall investment into the market as the fibre network to the houses is less than 50 per cent, but is something we are working on. However, the business is in growth mode, despite not being in roll-out mode,” Balkissoon said.

Also giving an insight into Digicel+ was Digicel’s local head of public relations Colin Greaves who said the company made this huge leap to create such a product and also get 100,000 customers on board.

“That’s a great achievement and from last Friday till this Friday we are giving out gifts to customers and also discounts of 50 per cent off to new customers who sign up for the subscription.”

Greaves said there has been an increase in home entertainment and broadband services as more persons are working from home as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There is a shift in demand for our product, so while we see a great demand for the home entertainment and broadband services, there is less demand in the mobile section as customers are not topping up as regularly and they are using less data because they are home. The downward trend in mobile use was being seen a few years ago, hence why Digicel had to expand into other services, in order to keep the company viable,” Greaves added.

Balkissoon noted that hotels in the region have also subscribed to Digicel’s broadband offering and the aim is to increase the number year on year.

Greaves and Balkissoon added that the Digicel Group will celebrate its 15th anniversary in the local market on April 6, 2021 and stated that customers should stay tune for what’s in store.

Digicel, which was founded in April 2001, is a mainly Caribbean mobile phone network and home entertainment provider operating in 33 markets across the Caribbean, Central America, and Oceania regions.

The company, which is incorporated in Bermuda, and is headquartered in Jamaica, is owned by Irish businessman Denis O’Brien.

Last June, the company was successful in restrucing its debt, reducing it by US$1.6 billion to US$5.4 billion and extending its debt maturity profile. That resulted in its annual cash interest costs being reduced by US$125 million.

In December, The Irish Times reported that Digicel had retained Citigroup to advise on a possible sale of its Pacific operations, having received a number of unsolicited approaches for the least-indebted part of the telecoms group.

There are reports out of Australia that several Chinese entities, including China Mobile, Huawei and ZTE are considering buying Digicel’s Pacific unit. This includes the company’s business in Papua New Guinea, one of its top three markets, as well as Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu Tonga and Nauru.

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