BitDepth#836 - May 29

Digicel leads the local telecommunications industry with the introduction of mobile broadband.
Extraordinary? Not yet.
John Delves speaks at the Digicel mobile broadband launch. Photograph by Andre Neufville, courtesy Digicel.

The launch of Digicel’s 4G network at the Trinidad Hilton was a loud, colourful, very red affair with pretty girls wearing ruby versions of every girl’s best little black dress. A star-studded crowd fuelled by racy techno music and colourful drinks.

Regrettably, I found myself a bit at sea in all this; an event clearly designed for an age group at least two generations behind mine.
Still, among the dancers flipping in their primary hued leotards and still more babes strutting the catwalk with absurdly tiny digital devices proffered in their palms, there was a tremendous energy that desperately needs to be focused on making this new mobile broadband network relevant.

Bandwidth starved consumers will immediately jump into the new, deeper waters offered by Digicel’s network (averaging 4Mbps), and proceed to immediately burn through their first data allotments showing funny YouTube videos on their smartphones to less well-endowed friends.
But what happens next?

Digicel hasn’t just stolen the spotlight from its telecommunications rival TSTT with this early lead in implementing mobile broadband, it has positioned itself, whether by design or the accident of competitive advantage, to begin the process of defining what a mobile broadband network might mean to its users in Trinidad and Tobago.

Newly appointed CEO of Digicel Trinidad, John Delves touched on the issue in his speech to the red brigade at the May 17 launch.
“It's very simple; you're just going to be able to do a lot more with your phone than you can do today,” Delves said.
“You're going to be able to use your smartphone the way it was meant to be, the way it was designed. You have a smart phone, and now you have a smart network to go with it.”

But apart from recommending new users that download apps and visit YouTube, Digicel’s bossman had no other advice for users experiencing mobile broadband for the first time.
The focus was on “fantastic hero handsets” and pricing plans, which would have made sense for the Digicel of April 2012, which sold minutes and phones.

Continuing that strategy with megabytes and more expensive phones would be a strategic mistake for the telecommunications provider.
In terms of technology shifts, this is one of those quiet quakes that subtly change everything, comparable to June 2007,
when Columbus Networks landed its broadband cable at Maqueripe Bay.

There were no bursts of confetti or tall drinks back then. Just hot sun, sandy churn in the sea water and backhoes digging trenches for a conduit that would change the way Trinidad and Tobago engaged the world using the Internet, moving us from counting data in kilobytes to megabits in one step.

About the worst thing, that Digicel could do with its advantage in the market now would be to spend all their money on advertising and promotions.
The Blackberry device has kept its place in the local market because of how well it performs on low bandwidth connection. Now the challenge is to develop new perceptions of the possibilities of mobile devices and new applications to drive their adoption.

We’ve already heard the message. The connection is fast. The packages are flexible. You are first. Now prepare to tell us the rest of the story.
Cut that handsome spend on advertising and promotion in half and reallocate it to a fund designed to encourage software developers to create apps and services that make dramatic, lifestyle changing use of this new network.

Lock apps developed with the fund to your network for a year if you like, but never lose sight of that pivotal role as a supporter of software and service development.
If you really want to define an extraordinary edge in this competitive environment, encourage amazing software development, in-demand services and digital advantage.
The data plans and devices will sell themselves after that.

My early experiences with Digicel's new 4G mobile broadband service.
An opinion piece for Contact Magazine, written in November 2011,
that predicted the mobile broadband changes of 2012.
brash announcement of their plans for a HSPA+ mobile broadband network.
BitDepth#832, on the impact that mobile broadband Internet will have on the news media.
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