Oct 18, 2020 News
– Proves once again it has been short changing Guyanese
Kaieteur News – For 30 years, the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph, which is 80 percent owned by US-based Atlantic Tele-Networks Inc., pushed against the liberalization of the telecoms industry while it practiced predatory pricing that stymied the development of call centres and emerging industries.
For decades as well, it failed to honour its licence obligations to provide quality, international services across the nation. During that time, it only appeared consumed by one objective—collect billions of dollars in profits for ATNI shareholders, even if that came at the expense of stifling the development of the nation’s telecommunications sector.
On June 1990, ATNI had signed an agreement with the Government of Guyana which allowed the company to have the exclusive right over the provision of international voice and data, as then defined in 1990. This agreement also had the option for renewal of the said deal for 20 years. That option was exercised in 2010 by the PPP regime, extending the monopoly until 2030.
The former administration, the APNU+AFC faction, had promised that it would bring an end to the monopoly but it claimed that this was just not possible given the 1990 agreement that the PPP renewed and other incentives GTT was asking for in exchange.
In response to the interest of the local authorities in liberalizing the sector, ATNI had expressed worry over the years to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission that it would possibly lose millions in revenue if Guyana secures its freedom.
In its latest 10-Q Form (https://seekingalpha.com/filing/5117402) , ATNI stated, “Within our International Telecom segment, we expect that Carrier Services revenue may decline in the near term as a result of reduced roaming revenues in connection with travel bans implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also anticipate that Carrier Service revenue from our international long-distance business in Guyana will continue to decrease as consumers seek to use alternative technology services to place calls, as well as a result of the loss of market share should we cease to be the exclusive provider of domestic fixed and international long-distance service in Guyana, whether by reason of the Government of Guyana implementing recently-passed legislation or new regulations or the lack of enforcement of our exclusive rights.”
It continued, “While the loss of our exclusive rights will likely cause an immediate reduction in our Carrier Services revenue, over the longer term such declines may be offset by increased revenue from broadband services to consumers and enterprises in Guyana, an increase in regulated local calling rates in Guyana or possible economic growth within that country.”
Now that the dark ages of its monopoly are no more, GTT has made another move which proves, yet again, that it has been short changing Guyanese all the while. Ten days after the Government liberalized the telecoms sector on October 5, 2020, GTT announced that its business consumers would be able to access a 600 percent increase in speeds in two months time. In its release to the media, GTT noted that businesses can access 300Mbps on its fibre network while noting that the improved services were done with no additional charge to customers. The company’s supposed reason for this “sudden improvement” in internet speeds is that it wants businesses to be able to meet the demands of the new online pandemic-driven world.
Contrary to GTT’s excuse, industry stakeholders opine that this new offer from GTT shows that they have been short changing Guyanese as within days of liberalization, they have been able to offer improved services. The move by GTT would also be seen as a response to its competitors such as E-Networks and Digicel, both of which have welcomed the liberalization of the sector and have eased over the years some of the pressure brought upon the backs of Guyanese by GTT’s exorbitant rates.
In spite of the company’s fears of losing its cash cow, industry stakeholders have since noted to this newspaper that liberalization, without a doubt, brings fresh air into the sector. As a result, they posited that Guyanese will now be able to benefit from the economic growth that is associated with modern and improved ICT.
Since GTT lost its monopoly, for example, Digicel has announced reduced international rates to 100 countries. The company said that this is just one of the many measures to come following the liberalization of the sector. Earlier this year, Guyana’s premier provider of television and internet services, rolled out a 4G network in Georgetown, from Enmore to Grove, and in Parfaite Harmonie. This network delivered 20 Mbps of home internet service at a comparatively lower price point than GTT. In September, it also expanded the coverage area to include Cornelia Ida, Schoonord and Tuschen, as well as unveiled its new 5G service – the first of its kind in Guyana. According to E-Networks, the 5G service, which uses the latest generation of wireless connectivity globally, is designed to meet today’s growing internet demands while delivering faster speeds at lower pricing to the Guyanese people. E-Networks also landed its own subsea cable from Barbados to Guyana in January of this year.
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