– First phase of GT&T’s DSL upgrades kicks in
By Leonard Gildarie
Just “e-magine” what it would be like to download a movie in one hour or view in real-time, while you are in the US, what is happening at a particular business office in Georgetown.
What about the possibility of being at home and listening to a classroom lecture taking place two continents away? Also in real-time.
All this would be possible within the next 24 hours as the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) significantly upgrades connectivity for its DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) clients.
And this is possible as a result of a much-touted US$30M fibre optic cable which has increased the company’s bandwidth capacity a staggering 4,000 times.
According to GT&T’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Yog Mahadeo, yesterday, the first phase of upgrades will target all DSL customers in the area of Georgetown and extending to Central Beterverwagting (BV), East Coast Demerara. It would also include the South Ruimveldt area.
By the end of the first week in July, a large number of these customers currently hooked to the DSL boxes will see their status automatically increase four times (4x) the current speed.
“So if you are receiving a standard 256 kbps (kilobytes per second), you can expect with the upgrade 1024 kbps when the upgrade is completed.”
“What we are hoping to do is light up Georgetown in the coming days,” an excited Mahadeo said during an interview yesterday.
Already, the company has started to hype up the upgrades with an aggressive “emagine” campaign which has seen the media, the city’s landscape and large TVs inundated with teasers of the possibilities of a super-speed internet.
But while all customers with wireline phones are being targeted, the upgrades will be done in phases with GT&T moving eastwards on the East Coast of Demerara by September/October.
The company is targeting to complete its upgrade of all current DSL customers across the country to the “superfast” system by mid-2011.
Explaining this phased approach, the CFO disclosed that because of the layout of the land and logistics involved, this is the only way it can be done.
Regarding some customers who may have concerns over the fact that they are paying $9,980 monthly for a standard DSL service and still receiving the 256 kbps until the upgrades come, the official hinted at an across-the-board reduced rate in the near future.
Already, the benefits of the heavy investments of the fibre optic cable are being felt.
“You probably don’t know this but from the beginning of June, our redundancy system of having the old submarine cable as a backup allows customers to face no downtime. You just can’t be down because we have a back-up system.”
Additionally, the introduction of the fibre optic cable will now allow GT&T the possibility of selling more DSL services to customers because of the increased bandwidth.
However, Mahadeo acknowledged that one of the challenges that GT&T faces is the fact that some areas across the country are without landlines. These include places like Canal Number 1 & 2, La Parfaite Harmonie, and other areas.
“We understand that this will be a challenge and we are not ruling out wireless connections.”
One of the problems with Guyana, the official pointed out yesterday, is the fact that residents are scattered throughout the country. Compared to other places in the Caribbean, GT&T’s cost to actually run landlines or wirelines are astronomical.
As a matter of fact, the CFO said, while Guyana customers is paying .001 cents per minute using a landline, Caribbean territories on an average pay 2 cents.
“But we do understand that even though we are losing on the landline maintenance and installations, it is a key service we are prepared to offer. As a matter of fact, GT&T will be improving on the way we deal with our clients.”
One of these may be the “long wait” that some applicants face when applying for wireline services.
“We will be changing this to ensure that our customers understand we are serious about changing and improving the way we operate.”
According to Mahadeo, GT&T is working to also introduce a number of packages that will make it even more affordable to hook-up to the internet at a fraction of the current DSL price of $9,980.
“We have a number of packages that we will roll-out soon,” a guarded Mahadeo said.
While GT&T has an estimated 7,000 DSL clients, the executive says that the company has put into place an aggressive marketing plan to target 40,000 customers by next year.
Already, in addition to three call centers, including Qualfon and Nand Persaud, two other businesses have approached the company to explore talks of buying bandwidth to open more of these facilities.
“The fibre optic cable and its possibilities have opened a host of areas. Additionally, the cost to buy bandwidth has dropped 40-50%. So it is attractive to these businesses interested in call centers.”
In addition to the education possibilities, Mahadeo disclosed that the opportunities are now staggering.
“Imagine someone who has an accident in Berbice and has to be brought to the city. That person’s medical history can be sent to the city at the click of a button.”
In May, GT&T said that the multi-billion-dollar fibre optic cable would make internet connection in Guyana, among the fastest in the region.
Not only will current internet speed be increased fourfold, a whole slew of additional features, including high speed internet, home monitoring, mobile monitoring and gaming, will now be possible.
Banks, companies with branches and other similar organizations will all benefit from the low cost of bandwidth.
While, GT&T had plugged US$30M to bring the cable, additional features to fully optimize the potential of the cable will see another US$20M-US$30M being added, GT&T had disclosed.
The deal to bring the cable to Guyana from Trinidad, through Suriname, was signed in December 2008.
GT&T had announced that it has moved into a “partnership mode” with several businesses in which the company will ensure internet connections and then work with businesses to provide computers and other equipment.
Mahadeo stressed that the company is not just satisfied with bringing the cable, but is fully aware that its potential has to be fully exploited.
Recently, government announced that it is bringing a fibre optic cable from Brazil to help improve its “e-governance”.
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