By Latoya Giles
Government’s main spokesperson, Dr. Roger Luncheon has said that he does not believe that Former President Bharrat
Jagdeo was speaking on behalf of the administration when he disclosed that Digicel was expected to receive formal approval soon for its fibre optic cable.
Last week the former head of state told the gathering at the annual Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association dinner, that the telecommunications giant was expected to get its own submarine fibre optic cable, which would be used to enhance its services with the expected liberalization of the telecoms sector.
Luncheon said yesterday that he believes that with the interest Digicel has brought out in the public about landing its cable in Guyana, that interest has not been a secret for those in the communications sector.
“That sector falls under the Office of the President and I would want to believe that it was in that context that his remarks must be seen,” Luncheon told the media. He said that the remarks cannot be with any prejudice to decisions that are yet to be made by the current administration with regards to the Digicel rollout plan.
“Much sympathy exists for enhancing the broadband capacity in Guyana,” the cabinet secretary stressed. He added that on the surface, if Digicel would come with a credible proposal in relation to bandwidth and cable, they would be given understanding and support.
“Now Digicel has applied to bring in another cable and I think the government has given them permission,” Jagdeo told attendees at the dinner. The Ramotar administration has not said anything on the possible cable for Digicel.
Jagdeo was at the time addressing criticisms of government’s lack of development of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector. He said that ICT development formed part of a four-pronged strategy that the Donald Ramotar administration is working on as it pushes to develop a green economy.
Digicel’s Chief Executive Officer Gregory Dean earlier this month had said that while his company is ready to make major investments in Guyana, the non-passage of the Telecommunication Bill continues to hamper business.
Dean had described the “non-passage” of the Bill as a bigger issue for the country.
“If a person is to look at the statistics, access to broadband and access to communication, it would be clear.”
Dean told Kaieteur News that there’s no secret that Digicel wants to invest and become a full service communications player, not only in terms of expanding the current services they offer on the mobile phone but to also upgrade the present service.
“We would also like to get into the landline and internet businesses, plus we’d like to run our own fibre optic cables too since we are looking to further our business here in Guyana,” Dean said.
“It’s unfortunate that people often characterize the problem as a “Digicel issue”. We are just one of the operators in the country that would want to see the liberalization of the sector, and it needs to be resolved urgently,” the CEO had told this publication.
Dean maintained that his company which touts itself as the “Bigger Better Network” is ready to make major investments in the country and would begin to do so immediately after the legislation is passed.
“Guyana has one of the lowest accesses to broadband; the only thing we come out on top is with regards to the prices,” the CEO told Kaieteur News. Dean also stated that lobbying the parliamentary group continues to be a sore point for the company.
Parliament went into recess on August 10 last, but the Telecommunications Bill, which was expected to be debated, was not heard. There has been mounting pressure for the passage of new telecoms legislation which could pave the way for new players to enter the market.
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 a 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 said.
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.
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