With just about two months left before Parliament moves into recess on August 10, pressure is mounting for the passage of new telecoms legislations that will pave the way for new players to enter the market.
Already, one of the two mobile companies on the local scene, Digicel Guyana, is preparing to launch a wide array of services including landlines and high-speed 4G services.
Digicel’s Chief Executive Officer, Gregory Dean, is not discounting his company offering packaged services that would include internet, landline and even cable television.
However, Digicel’s entry into the market with additional services hinges on new telecoms legislations which have been sitting in a Special Select Committee of the National Assembly since 2012.
The passage of the Telecommunication Bill will break the two decades stranglehold of international calls and landline services held by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T).
Speaking with the media on Friday, Dean made it clear that his company is confident that the Bill, which faced months of delays amidst ongoing high-level negotiations involving stakeholders, will be passed.
Digicel, he said, has made no secret of its intentions to also compete in the market with international calls and improved data services.
It is expected that current high prices for internet access and other related services would dip with new players entering. Several new housing schemes have been complaining about the long wait for telephone services, a popular, cheaper prerequisite for internet connection.
Given the demand in Guyana, the Digicel boss said, the delay in bringing the 4G network to Guyana has been more than disappointing, as ultimately it is the customers with their smart phones and tablets who are unable to fully utilize the possibilities.
“We want to go beyond being a mere mobile operator.”
The faster 4G in simple language means that Digicel customers will be able to access data at 14 times the current speed. It will allow for almost seamless viewing of You-Tube videos.
Last month, top executives of Digicel including owner, Denis O’Brien, met with President Donald Ramotar, signaling readiness to invest millions in new technologies.
According to the CEO, when Digicel initially entered Guyana, the focus was on opening the market to allow it to also compete with international calls.
However, new high-end phones and other devices offering possibilities, have seen Digicel eager to enter what was previously uncharted territory.
A recently released study of the Inter-American Development Bank placed Guyana at the bottom of the region in terms of internet speed, yet one of the most expensive.
“Digicel is more than happy to compete with anyone. It can only benefit Guyana in terms of service and price.”
Dean believes that his company can rollout the services in as little as year, in a market considered an important one for the group.
Since its entry into the Guyana market in 2007, Digicel has sunk US$70M in network and data services.
However, though it has managed to move its population coverage to 96 per cent, up from 70 per cent, it is only managing to cover a mere 14 per cent because of the terrain. The size of the country has been a major challenge in expanding to remote areas, Dean disclosed.
However, Digicel is not daunted. The coming of the Linden/Lethem Road will ease the mobilization challenges.
Already, the company has reached remote locations in the North West District, like Baramita, Arakaka and also Eteringbang.
According to the official, Digicel is aware of the fact that only a depressing five per cent of the population has access to broadband services.
This places Guyana at a severe disadvantage in terms of moving apace with the rest of the world.
Questioned whether Guyana should follow suit with Jamaica and India in putting its spectrum up for auction, Dean believes that ultimately the country should benefit. Whether it is an annual payment or a one-off payment, the spectrum, he agreed, is a valuable resource.
“At the end of the day, we are confident that the legislations will be passed shortly, before the Parliamentary recess, and that Digicel will continue to fulfill its mandate.”
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