Fight for Claro customers

Sunday, January 15, 2012

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Telecommunication firms Digicel and LIME both moved on Friday to lure Claro customers in limbo as word spread about Digicel's plan to shut down the Claro network which it acquired last year.

Digicel stated in a press release that it had advised the The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) that, from early this week, Claro customers will be able to transfer their current Claro numbers to the Digicel network.

"Digicel will be providing replacement SIM cards to all active Claro customers at its extensive network of Digicel stores," announced the company.

But, in an unsurprising move, LIME went on the offensive in an attempt to upstage its bitter rival with what it called a "rescue option" for Claro customers "left hanging" by the acquisition.

"It is clear that Claro customers are feeling disenfranchised as they have been tossed over to the country's most expensive mobile network without any say in the matter and LIME wants them to know they have an alternative," said Stephen Price, LIME Jamaica's head of marketing in a press release.

"Claro customers who come over to LIME can enjoy better value for money with our 'Free Nights' promotion and unlimited calling to five friends with 'Faves', which is similar to Claro's current 'Call 2 Text 1' offer. Plus they will also enjoy mobile data plans for as little as $100 per day," Price added.

The trade in offer, which is already available at all LIME Retail Stores and dealer locations, will run until January 31, 2012.

"LIME is inviting all Claro customers to come over to our network and enjoy better value, better prices and better technology. The last time we checked Jamaica was still a democracy so everyone should have a choice," Price said.

America Móvil (AMX) in March last year announced it would sell its local Claro operations to rival Digicel and, in return, acquire 100 per cent of Digicel's operations in Honduras and El Salvador. The deal -- which was approved in August -- allowed Digicel to further solidify its place atop the local mobile telecommunications sector where it already claims in excess of two million subscribers among the Jamaican population of 2.8 million.

The move means that LIME -- the sole provider of mobile phone services in Jamaica before liberalisation -- is once again Digicel's only competitor in the mobile phones market.

News broke last week that Digicel was granted permission to shut down the Claro network less than four months after agreeing to keep it going under the terms of their merger.

Permission for the network to be switched off was granted by the outgoing Jamaica Labour Party Government before December 8, as the general election campaign was kicking off.

With Claro now due to cease operation by March 1, the OUR and Digicel met on Friday about the market leader's plans for the shutdown of the Claro network and the Claro customer migration.

"Likewise, Digicel updated the OUR on its plans to shut down the Claro network thus achieving efficiencies and economies of scale which will see it in turn investing US$30 million in the rollout of island-wide 4G Mobile. This is on top of an existing investment of over US$1 billion in Jamaica to date," stated Digicel.

It is unclear how many mobile users are on the Claro network. Claro claimed in 2009 that they had overtaken LIME in mobile subscribers, but this was disputed by LIME.

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