Government has begun talks with Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company Limited (GTT) and its US parent company, ATN International (ATNI) to end the current monopoly on landline and international voice and data services.
The development would come months after Guyana passed new legislations in the
National Assembly to allow new players to compete in the telecommunications industry.
According to the Ministry of Public Telecommunications, on Friday, discussions began with the stakeholders in preparation for the transition to a liberalized telecommunications sector.
Leading the Government’s team was the Minister of Public Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes. She was accompanied by Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, and the Ministerial Advisors on ICT and Telecommunications.
The GTT and ATNI’s team was led by GTT’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Justin Nedd, and ATNI’s Vice President, Government and Regulatory Affairs, Doug Minster. Also present were other company executives.
According to the ministry, the discussions come on the heels of Guyana’s landmark telecommunications legislation which “is aimed at ending the exclusivity of fixed line, international voice and data services, and attracting investments to the ICT and telecommunications sector.” This will see increasing affordable internet access.
The ministry said that Friday’s discussions were cordial, positive and productive, with both teams expecting the talks to conclude “as soon as possible” to their mutual satisfaction.
In July, the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill 15/2016 was passed after a tough debate in the National Assembly.
In addition to opening the market to new players, there were amendments which allowed more powers to the subject minister, including determining which network is licensed to be operated, among other things.
The purpose of the Telecommunication Bill was to effectively bring to an end a monopoly enjoyed by GTT in the telecommunication sector.
The process to liberalize the telecoms sector began two administrations ago, but the legislations were left in limbo after objections by GTT and its US parent company over the fact that it had a standing, legal agreement in place with the Government of Guyana.
Consumers have been demanding the rollout of faster internet.
GTT has landed a fibre optic submarine cable but is only utilizing a fraction of it. There have been complaints of the sloth in rolling out new landline services in especially new housing schemes.
GTT has said that its landline services are losing monies big time because of maintenance and infrastructural costs.
The current Government, which came into office following early general elections last year, had vowed to ensure new companies enter the market to compete in not only landline services, but mobile and data.
Permission was granted earlier this year for GTT and Digicel to launch the 4G service, which allows faster speeds on smart phones and the streaming of videos and voice calls.
The new laws will allow for the establishment of a telecoms authority.
Currently, only GTT and Digicel Guyana offer mobile services. A number of applications are on file for telecoms licences for different services.
In July, when the legislations were passed, Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, made it clear that other companies had applied and were being considered to ensure the local market offers a variety of services and benefits…including better mobile rates, landlines and a host of other internet – related services.
Minister of Public Telecommunications Cathy Hughes had argued that Guyana had remained back in time despite the rapid development of technology in the world.
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