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MiPhone changes hands again PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 25 August 2007
Five years after Oceanic Digital bought out Centennial Communications' stake, which gave it full control of the local mobile company that operates under the brand name, MiPhone, the New York-based telecommunications firm has finalised a deal to sell the telecom to America Movil (AMX).

On Thursday, Oceanic announced that it had reached an agreement in principle to sell its Jamaican assets to the Latin American telecom, AMX.

The completion of the transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other conditions and is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2007.

The sale makes the second time for shares in the operation to change hands, since it started operations in 2001.
The liberalisation of Jamaica's telecommunications sector paved the way for two new entrants into the mobile telephony market, MiPhone, branded after then majority shareholder, Centennial, and Digicel, the Irish-owned firm that managed to capture the lion's share of the cellular market.

Digicel used second-generation technology, GSM, forcing incumbent Cable and Wireless (C&W) to do away with its TDMA network, while Centennial chose to build its network using CDMA technology.

The firm's build out was slower than Digicel, which equalled the number of subscribers of C&W in a matter of months, making it hard for the US firm to carve out a sizeable chunk of the market.

By late 2002, Centennial Communications sold its 51 per cent stake in Centennial Digital Jamaica for undisclosed terms to Oceanic Digital Communications, which at the time owned 49 per cent of the Jamaican wireless business.

Five years later, after rebranding the company MiPhone and refocusing on the small niche of mobile users that demanded more advanced multimedia functions, Centennial is selling out to AMX.

AMX is the leading provider of wireless services in Latin America and operates in 16 countries in the Americas. As of June 30, 2007, it had 137.2 million wireless subscribers and 3.8 million fixed wire lines in the Americas.

MiPhone has been reported to have 100,000 users for the last three years, although it has managed to capture a lucrative share of the international calling market by providing the technological platform for MegaPhone, a local operations that sells low-cost international calling minutes to subscribers using MegaPhone cellphones.

A reliable source told the Observer, that the newer operator had over 40,000 subscribers.

"We believe the purchase of the company by American Movil will enable MiPhone to continue as the leader in innovative telecommunication services on the island and to move forward with its strategy to provide the most technologically advanced array of telecommunications services and products to our customers," said Craig McBurnett, CEO of Oceanic Digital Jamaica Limited, in a press statement made last week.

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