– Berbice, Linden targeted for improved service in next 12 months
With almost US$20M spent, and 6,000 new fibre optic customers installed in the past year, the Guyana Telephone and Telegraphic (GTT) is emphatic about its readiness to deal with competition that is yapping at its heels.
The US-owned company would know about challenges. It is up there with the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) as the companies facing among the highest number of complaints by consumers.
But the company, with 200,000-plus customers and 700 employees, has been working round the week to roll out its Blaze service, built from a fibre optic system, to citizens who are clamouring for high-speed internet.
The race would be on to improve services dramatically as Guyana moves to a December deadline when it breaks the landline and international monopoly that the company held for the last 27 years.
The company has been facing criticisms for its seeming sloth in the rollout of services, including landlines and internet services.
It was ordered last year by the regulator- the Public Utilities Commission- to install at least 350 new landlines every quarter. This condition was made after it approved increased rates for the landline- what it says is an unprofitable part of its business.
Yesterday, GTT’s chief, Justin Nedd, made it clear that the company is aware of its responsibility and stands ready for the scrutiny.
There has been steady progress, with customer service and experience taken to a whole new level. Not only are applications now allowed online, but there are chat features using social media that have been introduced to assist customers.
GTT said that it is introducing at least 1,000 new customers for internet weekly over the last 12 months, across the Georgetown area.
Nedd disclosed that “happy customers” have been targeted for new services in areas like La Parfaite Harmonie, West Bank Demerara, and the Eccles Young Professional Housing Scheme, East Bank Demerara where high quality internet has been taken.
Soon, the Blaze service will be taken to Tuschen and Parika, East Bank Essequibo, and New Herstelling and Perseverance on the East Bank Demerara.
Within the next 12-18 months, Berbice and Linden, where the complaints have been coming from too, will be tackled.
GTT recently visited Berbice looking at introducing services in key areas like Skeldon and Number 76 Village, Corentyne, and New Amsterdam, East Bank Berbice.
According to Nedd, the reality there is a changing shift, based on the statistics. People are more interested in internet.
Even though the regulator has ordered 350 new landlines every quarter, there are indications that many of those are being given back by customers who prefer internet connectivity.
Indeed, it could be because the Blaze service, in addition to offering internet service, also has telephone service assigned, along with a number of TV channels.
According to GTT, for the first half of the year its service connected 98 percent of the times compared to about 90 percent a year ago.
For GTT, the biggest seller has been its Blaze service with 4,000 applications pending.
It has been a strain on technicians who have been working “round the clock”, the CEO said.
About 120 new connections are being done daily with each installation about two to four hours each.
The results for GTT have been excellent. Between January to June of this year, Nedd said, the internet traffic growth has grown 13 percent with the situation expected to be busier in coming months.
In fact, the demand for internet has seen a 35 percent growth in the use of such popular websites like Facebook and Netflix and of course, Google.
Internet growth stands at a 15 percent compound annual growth in the last five years, Nedd also disclosed.
With regards to the price, Nedd boasted that GTT is cheaper in terms of megabit per second by 93 percent as compared to its competitor. This comes at a time when GTT is saddled with a 45 percent statutory tax rate compared to the 27.5 percent of Digicel, its competitor.
According to Nedd, GTT and its team are not perfect, but staffers are working hard.
“GTT is around to stay,” Nedd stressed.
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