Jul 21, 2016 News
-GT&T welcomes increased competition from Digicel
By Jarryl Bryan
With the passage of the Telecoms (amendment) Bill of 2016 on Monday, opportunities for
investors have been increased. It also means that companies such as Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) will have to stay on top of their game, against the competition likely to come as the sector becomes more liberalized.
According to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GTT, Justin Nedd, this is a challenge that the company is preparing to meet.
During a press conference called by the company yesterday at its head office, he expressed “happiness” at the passage of the legislation and promised a clearly defined strategy for the company within two months.
Nedd was optimistic at the prospect that Digicel Guyana, GTT’s main competitor in Guyana for mobile phone service, may also expand and apply for the requisite licences.
For years Digicel lamented the telecoms monopoly and had called for legislation that would allow it to provide increased service.
“It is certainly a positive step and a significant move to bring better and improved service to the people of Guyana. And in order to have liberalization, GT&T and the government have to engage in discussions.”
“It means positive economic benefits for Guyana and we are ready, right now, to engage the government. Last week, I had a discussion with the Minister of Telecommunications. And we got a commitment that we will be moving, very quickly, to engage the government so we could get liberalization and open the market.”
Nedd also emphasized that GTT will not be making a case for the monopoly to remain in place, since the company “wanted” the liberalization of the sector. The CEO stated that instead, GTT will be ensuring that proper negotiations are conducted.
“But I am confident and I have been given assurances by the government that our contract rights will be respected,” Nedd revealed. “We’re in talks right now, so I don’t want to get into details.”
Wide range of services
According to Nedd, with the opening up of the sector, GTT will be looking to bring a wider range of services to the country over the coming months.
In addition, he stated that the legislation will clarify certain gray areas.
Nedd also said that the legislation had nothing to do with the 4G service which GTT had rolled out for the Jubilee celebrations in May of this year.
He stated that the licence for this was granted after years of pushing for it.
“We were able to push out a significant portion of our network in a few weeks,” Nedd said. “We are still working on expanding that network, but liberalization and 4G are two separate issues.”
Nedd was asked why so many customers were experiencing glitches with the 4G service. While he did not confirm that the company was unprepared at the time for the service it was delivering, he stated that the normal nine months before the roll out of a project of that magnitude was waived.
“We continue to upgrade our networks and make things better. With the 4G service, it was introduced in May with two weeks’ notice. So we are still working out more service and some teething problems. Generally a project like that would be nine months. And we did it in two weeks.”
Nedd also affirmed that work was ongoing on not only bettering the 4G service, but also broadband internet services.
Back in the 1990s, GTT was given an exclusive licence to provide a myriad of services. These services included radio and pay station telephone, private line services and international voice and data transmission.
This was a 21-year licence, with an option for renewal for another 20 years. GTT’s licence did not allow the company carte blanche over cellular networks and thus Digicel Guyana was able to establish itself. While other Caribbean countries have made strides in liberalizing their telecommunications sectors, Guyana was a notable exception for years.
The Telecoms Bill was at the level of a special select committee back in 2014 when former President Donald Ramotar prorogued parliament. Hence, the Bill was one of several items on the agenda that were put into limbo at the time.
On Monday, the People’s Progressive Party again made attempts to have the Bill sent to a special select committee, which would have delayed the passage as the Bill would have had to be examined. These efforts were voted down.
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