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Telecoms liberalisation appears to be finally on the horizon

Guyanese will late this year or early 2016 get higher mobile data speeds and lower international calling packages, among other benefits, when long-awaited laws are passed by the National Assembly.

Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson says that work on the draft amendment bills for the Public Utilities Commission and the Telecommunication sector have been completed. “I had said before that it will be done this year. I can’t say if its next week, it will be done this year,” he said.

Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson says that work on the draft amendment bills for the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Telecommunication sector have been completed.

Patterson, at a press conference on Monday, stated that the bills are currently before a cabinet sub-committee where they are currently being reviewed.

The review seeks to ensure that the bills reach the stipulations as set out by the new administration.

Patterson told reporters that “the consultants have returned a draft of the Telecommunications Bill as well as the draft PUC Bill. Right now it’s with a cabinet subcommittee, it’s being circulated.”

“I had said before that it will be done this year. I can’t say if it’s next week, it will be done this year,” he added.

Effectively the two pieces of legislation would see the liberalization of the telecommunications sector which has been something eluding Guyana for a number of years.

Though the bill was laid in parliament, it had to be aborted after the no-confidence motion was filed in the National Assembly.

Both of the major players in the sector have already signalled their readiness to roll out additional services such as high speed mobile data plans and international calling packages as soon as the Bill is passed in the National Assembly.

The Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) and Digicel (Guyana) have said they were unable to offer 3G and 4G services because the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) has not granted the required radio frequency spectrum.

Under the former government, several small companies would have automatically qualified for telecommunications licenses if and when the sector is liberalized.

However, Patterson now says that persons wishing to operate in the sector will have to go through an application process.