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New competition for Vodafone ends 17-year run

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Sept. 30, 2008) - Digicel breaks the 14-year-old Fiji mobile telecommunication monopoly held by Vodafone Fiji on October 1.

Launching its 28th network at a pre-launch media briefing in Suva today, Digicel Pacific chief executive Vanessa Slowey emphasized Digicel’s role as a monopoly breaker.

The Caribbean-based company owned by billionaire Irish businessman Denis O’Brien, has broken monopolies in the mobile telecommunication sector in every country the company has launched in.

In Fiji, it has had to wait two years, working on its base stations and expanding into the rest of the Pacific, while the Government decided on how to liberalize the market.

Digicel was so sure they would get the license much earlier that they splashed FJ$1 million [US$625,000] a year in sponsorship on the Fiji Sevens rugby team more than two years ago.

Today the team and Fiji Rugby paid its dues as Fiji Sevens rugby star and Coach Waisale Serevi made the first call on the Digicel network to his father Meli in the village of Qarani, Gau, in the Lomaiviti Group. Serevi is also a Digicel’ brand ambassador.

At the launch, the company revealed it has invested FJ$115 million [US$72 million] in Fiji -- being its fifth market in the Pacific.

"The long wait for the launch of Digicel in Fiji is now over. Since receiving a license in Fiji in May 2008, Digicel has established a well-trained workforce of more than 170 employees and an estimated 10,000 additional jobs created through its local dealerships and partners," Digicel Fiji’s chief executive officer John Delves said.

Delves said their investment gave Digicel 95 percent population coverage throughout Fiji. He said Digicel would offer the best value to its Fiji customers, including a first for Fiji - per second billing for all its customers -- prepaid and postpaid.

"We believe our customers should only pay for exactly what they use to any network, both domestic or internationally, so customers will no longer be charged in blocks of 30 seconds," Delves said.

At present, competitor Vodafone Fiji does not offer this service across the board, but provides this service through its mobile virtual network, Inkk Mobile.

Digicel will also offer rollover minutes, international postpaid and prepaid roaming and bundled voice minutes with Blackberry, all firsts for Fiji.

"For the first time in Fiji, customers will be able to buy a prepaid phone and take that phone and travel to over 100 countries across the world. That’s not available to Fiji so that’s another first for Digicel," Delves said.

To celebrate its launch, customers who join the Digicel network will get free talk and text worth FJ$75 [US$47].

"I’m delighted to announce that we will only have the top brands in our range of Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Nokia at low prices," Delves said.

"We have 19 handsets in our range and can be bought for as low as FJ$19 for a Motorola 156, FJ$29 for a Motorola 181 and FJ$39 for a Nokia 1209."

He added all its new customers would be able to take pictures on their camera-phone and text to another in the Digicel network for free for the month of October.

Delves highlighted three packages - for its prepaid (Digicel Flex), postpaid (Digicel Select) and business customers (Digicel Business).

Digicel flex, Digicel’s prepaid service offers a savings of up to 25 percent on Digicel to Digicel calls, with access to 25,000 top-up locations across Fiji.

Digicel prepaid customers can top-up their credit by purchasing Flex (recharge) cards at FJ$3, FJ$5, FJ$10, FJ$15, FJ$20, FJ$50 and FJ$100, and or get electronic top-ups for as low as FJ$1 to FJ$100 and any amount in between.

Vodafone Fiji currently offers recharge cards for as low as FJ$11 and electronic top-up for as low as FJ$2. Inkk Mobile cards can be purchased at as low as FJ$5 and electronic top-up at as low as FJ$1.

Digicel Select packages for individual postpay customers would result in calls charged at one rate to every network in Fiji, which would save customers up to 50 percent domestically.

"We’ll offer per second billing and we have rates as low as 23 cents per minute to any network within Fiji, and also save 30 percent on international calls.

For Digicel Business customers, Delves said they could be rest assured of continuous connection while traveling anywhere around Fiji.

"You can travel around Fiji and stay connected. No more dropped calls … you know how frustrating it is when there are huge sections where you can’t make a call from Suva to Nadi but with Digicel, you will stay connected all the time," Delves said.

"We will deliver savings of 50 percent and rates as low as 17 cents, our best packages for businesses and free bundled minutes."

There will be even lower prices for customers who opt-in for a closed user group. Vodafone Fiji customers currently pay 10 cents a minute within a group.

Delves said Digicel would operate a state-of-the-art 2.75G (Generation) Edge network.

When asked when they planned to launch 3G, Digicel’s Pacific CEO Vanessa Slowey said there were no immediate plans.

She said its current 2.75G network operated at a fast speed at the moment "and we are satisfied with it".

Digicel stores opens tomorrow with 13 branded flagship stores, 95 exclusive dealers, 25 kiosks and 2 mega kiosks, 3 mobile stores, 37 village stores and 25,000 top-up locations all across Fiji.

"This will allow us to bring Digicel to our customers, having had the widest reach and they don’t have to come to us," Digicel’s Stuart Kelley said at the launch.

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