Wataniya announces launch of emergency credit scheme

Telecoms provider Wataniya has announced the launch of an “Emergency Credit” scheme that it has said allows prepaid mobile customers to receive up to MVR100 in phone credit wherever they are by dialling a special number.

According to the company, the scheme is designed to allow customers to make emergency calls in situations where they would not normally be able to top up their phone credit, before reimbursing the amount when they next buy credit.

“On the next recharge, the emergency credit amount will be deducted automatically from their account,” Wataniya stated following the launch of the scheme today.

The new service, which is available to Wataniya’s prepaid and ‘wMix’ customers who have been using the company’s services for at least six months, can be accessed by dialling ‘*140#’.


Cable and Wireless Communications sells Dhiraagu majority stake to Bahrain’s Batelco

Dhiraagu has said it remains “businesses as usual” for its operations after the group’s majority shareholder Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) announced today it would be selling its stake in the company to Bahrain-based Batelco.

The agreement will see CWC divest its businesses in a number of nations, including the Maldives, Channel Islands and Isle of Man, the Seychelles, Diego Garcia as well as other South Atlantic operations it has stakes in for a fee of US$680 million (MVR10.4bn).

Dhiraagu’s Manager for Marketing, Communications and Public Relations Mohamed Mirshan Hassan told Minivan News that Batelco’s purchase – expected to be completed by the end of CWC’s present financial year – would have no immediate impact on the company’s existing services or expansion plans. Batelco has pledged to invest further in the company to strengthen Dhiraagu’s position in the Maldivian telecommunications sector.


As of March this year, CWC controlled 52 percent of Dhiraagu’s shares, with the government holding just under 42 percent.

Mirshan added that there had been no discussions over whether its new majority shareholder would look to add to its stake  in the telecommunications provider.

“There has been no mention of this at the moment,” he said, adding that it would remain “business as usual” for the company once the sale of its shares had been completed.

In addressing the sale, CWC CEO Tony Rice said that the company was selling its Monaco and Islands portfolio, which includes the stake in Dhiraagu, as part of its wider aims to expand the group’s Pan-America operations.

Meanwhile, Batelco Group Chief Executive, Sheikh Mohamed bin Isa Al Khalifa said the group would look to make further investment in Dhiraagu following completion of the deal.

“Batelco is in the process of building a telecoms business of global relevance of which the Maldives will be an important part,” he said. “We will continue the development of Dhiraagu as a market leader and we are looking forward to supporting each of the businesses and contributing to the communities they operate in.”

Dhiraagu itself is one of the country’s largest service providers, dominating the internet and telecommunications sector alongside its main competitor, Wataniya.

Set up back in 1988, the company has said it presently employs over 600 staff across the Maldives, 99 percent of whom are said to be local workers.

CWC took a controlling stake in Dhiraagu in 2009 when former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government sold 7 percent of its shares, giving the British-based firm a controlling stake in the company.

Then-opposition parties criticised the sale in local media, arguing that the acquisition of large stakes of domestic companies by foreign investors was bad for the country.

Similar arguments have been levelled against the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) by Indian company GMR. Earlier today, GMR secured an injunction from the High Court of Singapore against the Maldives cabinet’s earlier decision to void its concession agreement for the US$511 million project and issue the developer with a seven day eviction notice.

The Maldivian government nonetheless has today dismissed such an injunction and vowed that the airport will be run by the state-owned Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) by the coming Saturday (December 7).


President Waheed inaugurates new Dhiraagu HQ

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan yesterday opened the new head office of local telecommunications group Dhiraagu in Male’, a construction the company claims is the first its kind in the capital to be built to meet specific technical requirements.

President Waheed spoke at a special opening ceremony, playing up the importance of the country’s communications sector to wider development in the Maldives.  He attended the ceremony alongside dignitaries including Minister of Economic Development Ahmed Mohamed.

Dhiraagu itself is one of the country’s largest service providers, dominating the internet and telecommunications sector alongside its main competitor, Wataniya.

According to the company, its new headquarters has been designed to comply with international safety standards, whilst also providing accessibility to wheelchair users and incorporating what it has called advanced energy saving and environmental friendly technologies.

These technologies include the use of 100 percent LED lights across the building, motion sensors, heat reflective glass and ozone friendly refrigerant within the office’s air conditioning units.

On the outside of the structure, Dhiraagu claims that a silver colour PVDF cladding has also been used over a highly reflective glass surface that serves to further reduce heat entry into the building.

Set up back in 1988, the company has said it presently employs over 600 staff across the Maldives, 99 percent of whom are said to be local workers. Dhiraagu’s leading shareholder is presently Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC).

CWC took a controlling stake in Dhiraagu in 2009 when former President Nasheed’s government sold 7 percent of its shares, giving the British-based firm a controlling stake in the company.

Then-opposition parties criticised the sale in local media, arguing that the acquisition of large stakes of domestic companies by foreign investors was bad for the country.

Similar arguments have been levelled against the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) by Indian company GMR, sparking fears that foreign firms will be deterred from investing in the Maldives.

CWC now controls 52 percent of Dhiraagu’s shares,with the government holding just under 42 percent as of March this year.


Dhiraagu internet service “restored” after successful repair test

Dhiraagu has said that internet services affected by a damaged section of submarine cable off the Sri Lankan Coast have been “restored” after testing on repairs proved successful today.

The cable was damaged on the evening of Wednesday April 18 forcing the company to provide a “degraded” service to national internet customers for several days as it sought out “diversity routes” to reduce the impact to its operations.

The repair work, which was carried out jointly by Dhiraagu and Sri Lankan Telecom (SLT), commenced last week after a specially equipped repair vessel called the Asean Explorer made its way to Sri Lanka from India.

Company spokesperson Imjad Jaleel told Minivan News that testing on the repaired cable had been under way today to ensure that the company could provide a “normal service” to its clients.  By this evening, Dhiraagu announced the tests had been successful and that its broadband capacity had been restored.

According to Dhiraagu, the damaged section of cable, situated 26 miles off the Sri Lankan coast and 40 metres below the water had been damaged by the anchor of a ship.  The damage was found to have occurred in an area of Sri Lankan waters where vessels were not permitted to anchor, the company had previously announced.

Whilst repairs were being undertaken, the company said it had been working to improve the quality of internet services and international calls affected by the cable damage through alternative avenues like the use of satellites.

Last week, chief national telecoms rival Wataniya announced it was also assisting in the provision of data capacity from its own cable as part of a national agreement to cover any disruptions to the Maldives communication network.  Dhiraagu said it has been paying Wataniya for the data capacity allowance.


Dhiraagu reveals cable repair vessel to arrive April 25, discusses compensation

Dhiraagu has said it does not wish to speculate on a date for the completion of repairs to a damaged section of submarine cable that has severely impacted its internet services over the last week.

The local telecoms group said that until repair work commences on April 25, the company would not be able address the scale and cause of the damage to a section of cable based 26 kilometres from the Sri Lankan coast.  However, a spokesperson stressed to Minivan News that the cause of damage to the cable was being seen as an “accident” at present.

Company Chief Executive Ismail Rasheed today told local media that Dhiraagu would be providing compensation for customers affected by the disruption to its internet services as it works to increase capacity.

Dhiraagu has been looking for so called “diversity routes” since the damage occurred to the cable last Wednesday (April 18), forcing it to provide a “degraded” service to its internet customers,  whilst prioritising e-mail and browsing services.

Dhiraagu added that as part of a national agreement, telecoms rival Wataniya would be assisting in providing data capacity from its own unaffected submarine cable.  The company has said that is is also working to strengthen its satellite operations for international phone services.

Asean Explorer

Company spokesperson Imjad Jaleel has told Minivan News that the Asean Explorer vessel equipped to enact repairs on submarine cables was still expected to leave India on Tuesday before arriving in Sri Lanka the next day.

According to the company, the damage has been located to a section of cable situated 40 metres below the Sri Lankan waters. The cable itself connects Sri Lanka directly to the island of Huhlumale’. From Hulhumale’, this signal is then carried across the country’s scattered atolls.

Spokesperson Imjad stressed that the company would not yet be speculating on a date for full services to resume until it could offer more detailed information to its customers.

The damage sustained to its cable was still being considered an “accident”, possibly resulting from an errant anchor, he added.

The company claimed that preliminary testing had shown that the damage was not believed to have resulted from earth quakes or other geological occurrences, leaving anchoring ships as the most probable cause.

According to Imjad, the cable itself is situated in one of two areas in Sri Lankan waters specifically set aside for the country to house its underwater communications cables. In these areas, the anchoring of ships is not permitted, he added.

“We believe that there could have been an accident with an anchor perhaps accidentally being dropped in these waters, but we will only be able to asses fully on April 25,” Imjad claimed.


Dhiraagu expects submarine cable repairs to begin Wednesday

Repair work to a damaged submarine cable that has affected internet services provided by local telecoms group Dhiraagu is expected to begin on Wednesday, local media has reported.

Dhiraagu has been having to provide a “degraded” internet service since Wednesday evening after a section of submarine cable located 26km off the coast of Sri Lanka was damaged. The cable is used by the group to provide internet service to the Maldives.

Despite initial estimates that the problem would be resolved in three to four days, the company now expects repairs to begin once a specially equipped repair vessel arrives in Sri Lanka. The ship is expected to arrive Tuesday, according to local newspaper Haveeru.

The company has said that in the meantime it is continuing its work on supplying “diversity routes” that will allow it to try and prioritise offering web browsing and e-mail services to customers.

Wataniya, Dhiraagu’s main competitor in the national telecommunications market, has said in a press release that it will aim to assist in providing data capacity through its own unaffected submarine cable network.


Dhiraagu warns of “degraded” internet service over submarine cable damage

Dhiraagu has said its internet customers could face “degraded service” for the next few days as work is undertaken to repair a damaged submarine cable between the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Dhiraagu spokesperson Imjad Jaleel said that “diversity routes” were
now being used by the company to ensure that locally hosted web
services could be accessed today, as it aims to prioritise the
provision of web browsing and e-mail services to customers.

“There should be no problems for locally hosted sites right now,”
Jaleel claimed. “We are looking to make use of diversity routes that
will allow us to prioritise important services such as e-mail and
browsing services for our customers even on sites based

Degraded services started occurring on Wednesday evening.  Some business
organisations have expressed concerns that interrupted services were
already having a detrimental impact on local businesses such as those in the
tourism sector that rely on online bookings.

Dhiraagu is one of the country’s largest internet service providers,
dominating the internet and telecommunications sector. Dhiraagu’s main
competitor Wataniya has said it does not currently have any issues with the
provision of its internet services.

Submarine cable

According to Dhiraagu, the problem with its internet service has arisen due
to damage sustained on a section of international submarine cable
located 26 kilometres off the coast of Sri Lanka. The cable is used by
the company to provide broadband services to the country.

Jaleel said the damaged area of cable had been located and a
regionally-based specialised vessel called the Asean Explorer was now
on its way to the affected area to conduct repairs. The vessel is
expected to arrive in the next 24 to 48 hours.

“This has impacted our customers’ access to the internet, it is
estimated that normal services will return in three to four days,”
Jaleel said. “The cable is located 40 metres below the water and this
is the first time that damage like this has taken place on our

Jaleel said the company would not know the exact cause of the damage
to the cable until the Asian Explorer vessel began repairs. However,
he said the damage may been caused by a vessel anchoring in shallow

“We would like to assure customers that we are presently seeking out
diversity routes and that everyone should be able to access locally
hosted web sites,” he said. “The Asian Explorer vessel that is on its
way now is designed specially to deal with repairs like this.”

Speaking to Minivan News today, the Maldives National Chamber of
Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) Vice President Ismail Asif claimed that
it had received several concerns regarding the impact of internet
connectivity issues on local business.

Asif claimed that the chamber had not received information from Dhiraagu as
yet on the issues affecting local internet service, adding that the
organisaton has itself been experiencing problems with its e-mail.

“We are still awaiting information right now from our members on the
scale of the impact, but almost everything we do relies on e-mails,
even letters we receive are scanned rather than faxed these days,” he
said. “Therefore, we expect there to be a huge impact on businesses.”

In terms of specific vulnerabilities to internet connections, the
MNCCI said that many of the country’s tourism related companies
significantly based their operations online.

“We cannot give the number of websites that are down right now
obviously as the internet situation is hindering our own work,” he


Wataniya and Dhiraagu “collude” against public interest: DRP Deputy Leader Ahmed Mohamed

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Ahmed Mohamed has claimed that changes made by telecommunication companies Dhiraagu and Wataniya are diluting market competition and damaging the public interest.

Both companies have upgraded their fair usage policies and increased the possible number of free texts per credit top-up from 20 to 50, effective January 1. They have also requested a tariff change due a hike in package prices.

“In the past, Dhiraagu had a monopoly. When Wataniya came in there was health competition in the country and phone charges decreased dramatically. But these recent actions, the fair usage policies and the change in tariffs, can be seen as colluding,” said Mohamed.

“I don’t know if there is a law against anti-competitive behavior in the market,” Mohamed explained, “but these colluding behaviors by the telecomm companies are not healthy for the general public.”

Mohamed said the government should act on any law which prohibits companies from colluding to reduce competition and drive up prices, or should create one to address such a situation.

Wataniya and Dhiraggu are the only two telecommunications companies in Maldives, and both introduced BlackBerry services to the Maldives this year.

CAM Deputy Director General Abdullah Pasha confirmed that CAM had approved tariffs for price changes, but said the authority did not regulate changes to free minutes “because it is used to manage excess capacity on their networks, and so it’s up to them.”

Pasha did not believe that the changes would hurt competition or impact the general public.

“Prices are going up in every sector right now, so this isn’t unusual,” he observed.

Officials at both telecommunications companies were unaware of Mohamed’s statement, and did not believe that there was cause for concern.

“Competition is one of the fundamental things of a strong, successful business. We definitely don’t engage in anything that would compromise market competition,” said Dhiraagu Marketing and PR executive Imjad Jaleel.

Jaleel said Dhiraagu has made several changes which bear similarities to upgrades made by Wataniya, but claimed that the coincidence was an effect of catering to the same population.

“After all we are talking about the Maldives market,” he said. Jaleel added that changes at Dhiraagu are always monitored by an outside party. “Dhiraagu must go through the Communications Authority of Maldives (CAM) to make any changes, and we follow CAM’s advise and cooperate with its regulations. There is nothing we would do to damage competition, or have a negative impact on the general public.”

Wataniya’s Head of Marketing and Communications Aishath Zamra Zahir said the company was also “following the usual procedure with CAM, and [has] fulfilled all the licensing requirements.”

Zahir added that Wataniya’s changes have not tamed the market, but rather have maintained the company’s  competitive edge.

“We still offer the lowest IDD (international direct dialing) in the country,” she pointed out.

According to Wataniya‘s new fair usage policy, customers can receive up to 1000 free minutes when making calls from a free phone number.

Dhiraagu customers with post paid plans can now receive between 1000 and 5000 free minutes per month for calls with free numbers, according to their plan.

Jaleel pointed out that these revisions are not unique to the Maldives, but rather reflect “a trend that is happening everywhere in the world.”


Dhiraagu launches BlackBerry

Dhiraagu has officially launched BlackBerry services, and now offers customers three BlackBerry Smartphone plans, which can be added to postpaid plans.

At  a press  conference  held  at  Dhiraagu  today Director of Marketing Ahmed  Maumoon said,  “After  a  very  successful  soft‐launch  period  for  thorough  testing  of  the  BES
solution  with  different  customer  groups  we  are  delighted  to  unveil  Dhiraagu  BlackBerry Smartphone Plans with the largest network in the Maldives.”

Maumoon commented that the preliminary soft launch period was proof Dhiraagu’s attention to customer needs and preferences.

In September of this  year, competitor Wataniya launched BlackBerry service in the Maldives. Officials at the time considered it an important step for business in the country, given the service’s reputation for strong security.