BitDepth#861 - November 20

It's TSTT versus Digicel in the war for mobile broadband marketshare? Who's winning the mindshare currently?
The 4G Smackdown
SpeedTest results are wildly variable, depending not only on your location, but on the server you send test data to. From a range of locations from Cunupia to Diego Martin, Bmobile’s 4G implementation looks good.

By now, everyone in the known universe, or at least those within the boundaries of our island state, know that we now have a competitive market for mobile broadband.
On November 09, TSTT formally launched their HSPA+ broadband network for Bmobile customers, offering a direct, head to head competitive product to Digicel’s six-month old 4G network.

Both products work on the same protocol, which is capable of offering theoretical maximum speeds of 21Mbps. Most commercial implementations are slower than that, however.
There is contention about whether HSPA+ can really be described as a 4G technology. The International Telecommunications Union has conferred the 4G title on the protocol, but it’s generally considered to be a bridge technology on the road to the much faster speeds already being offered on the newest LTE networks.

Since mobile broadband is based on a pool of possible access, the more customers that are active on the network, the slower the maximum speeds available to each user.

Service providers may also throttle the networks, making slower speeds available overall and holding maximum capacity in reserve. The quality of the signals that mobile phones receive also drop off the further they are from a radio tower and are also vulnerable to radio sapping infrastructure like steel and concrete.
As speeds drop, expect your signal reporting to drop from H+ to H to 3G to E, the Edge networks we were all using until May.

Right now, it’s the best of all possible times for mobile users on both Digicel and Bmobile. Multiple speed test posts on social networks, suggest that both competitors have opened their broadband pipes wide to give new users the best impression of their service.

Users are still signing up, so the signal pool is sparsely populated right now, offering excellent response times and blazing fast speeds. The big shakeout is going to come when more users pile on and really put pressure on both networks. Call this a tie for now.

Digicel’s pricing was borderline at the start, but they moved quickly to match their competition after the Bmobile went public with a baseline of 5GB for most of their plans. At $179 for the basic plan, Bmobile positioned their cheapest plan at just $29 more than the $150 they were asking for unlimited GPRS service.
Now, you might argue that a blue and a half was a lot for 1990’s era modem speeds, but a jump to broadband speeds for less than 20 percent more is quite a deal.

As the second to market with HSPA+, Bmobile has been more aggressive on price and takes this point. But from the consumer point of view, the last eight months have seen us jump from GPRS speeds of 56-96kbps to 1.5-2.5Mbps at essentially the same price. So we take win.
Triniberry’s exhaustive testing of both services is

Massaging BitDepth
We asked both providers for a trial of their service. Digicel had us on the week before launch. Bmobile crawled in a week after their service became available. Digicel wins for knowing which tree to climb and got there early. Thumbs up for big red.

Launch party
Not the most important aspect of a mobile broadband campaign, admittedly, but the trouncing that Digicel put on Bmobile here was notable. The red team splashed their colours everywhere, got on and off the stage in 45 minutes with tight speeches, pointed demos, and then pumped up the party music and drinks right afterward.

Bmobile began with a lousy sound system and then went on and on. And on. It was as if the bored hubbub of conversation offered no inkling to anyone responsible for the event that nobody was interested anymore. I left after two hours and people were still nattering on the stage and abusing the brand ambassadors with humiliating dance routines. Digicel was so far ahead here it wasn’t even the same race.

Digicel’s enigmatic launch ad, with that Phillipe Halsman inspired
splash of water was soon replaced by a more businesslike , but equally polished imagining of the mobile broadband experience. I wasn’t particularly taken with their print material, which looked like Benneton ads without the wit and style, but at least they didn’t offend me. Bmobile managed to put almost their whole cast of brand ambassadors into a double-page advertisement without dignifying a single one. At least somebody has put their naughty classroom fantasies behind them now.

As for the Bmobile television ad. Well, that was the demo reel, wasn’t it?
Still it’s early days yet in the mobile broadband wars, and the battle is yet to be joined in the consumer space decisively. Bmobile is promising apps. Digicel is maintaining a dignified silence.
Both have pent up demand to meet. Let the games begin.
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