The Guyana government and the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company have inked a memorandum of understanding for the government’s planned liberalisation of the telecommunications market, but no date has been set for this to be realised.
“The MOU, while non-binding, represents a major step toward fully liberalizing Guyana’s telecommunications market. The parties have further agreed to continue discussions on all outstanding issues with the objective of reaching a binding agreement,” government and GTT said.
Chief Executive Officer of GTT, Justin Nedd said it was hard to predict when the telecommunications market would be fully liberalised, but he hailed the “non-binding” document as a major step in the company’s more than 20-year old journey.
“This is the closest we have been. Both teams are very committed to sitting and working through,” he told Demerara Waves Online News. “This is the first time we have agreed on the broad principles,” he said.
The two sides said in a joint statement that they have further agreed to continue discussions on all outstanding issues with the objective of reaching a binding agreement. Those issues were not divulged, but the Guyana Revenue Authority and GTT’s parent company, Atlantic Tele-Network (ATN) have in the past identified multi-million US dollar tax liability claims as one of the major sticking points.
Minister of Public Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes, who had previously set herself several deadlines for liberalisation, said in the joint statement that the memorandum of understanding has moved Guyana closer to having a liberalised telecommunications market. “After many years of delays, this Government has brought the country one step closer to achieving a fully open telecommunications market. While more work needs to be done, the Government is committed to continuing discussions and completing the process of liberalization for the citizens of
Nedd expressed satisfaction that GTT has reached “this milestone”. “GTT fully supports an open and transparent telecommunications market in Guyana and the opportunities it will provide for Guyana’s citizens and our customers. We look forward to further discussions with the Government to reach an agreement on the issues that remain outstanding.”
GTT’s original 20-year licence expired in 2010, but it has since been renewed in keeping with its original contract.
The company legally has a monopoly on international voice and data services, but industry sources have said the concept of data in the original agreement did not cater for Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
Over the years, the company has said it has been losing annual revenues in an unofficially liberalised environment where there are other service providers as well as over-the-top (OTT) third-party telephony services such as WhatsApp, Skype and Viber.