Last Updated on Tuesday, 6 October 2020, 16:34 by Denis Chabrol
Digicel and the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) on Tuesday said they were ready to vastly improve connectivity now that the country’s telecommunications sector has been formally liberalised with government’s full activation of the 2016 Telecommunications Act.
Digicel said it was getting ready to bring a new era of connectivity and opportunity to the people of Guyana on the back of the news that the new Government has moved quickly to remove the 31-year GT&T telecoms monopoly which resulted in poor choice, poor quality, poor coverage and poor service.
“To say that this day has been a long time coming is an understatement. For 16 long years, we have asked, requested, pushed, lobbied and pressured. Today, finally, that day is here. At Digicel, we firmly believe that access to broadband is a basic human right. Now, the people of Guyana can look forward to a brighter future with affordable access to world- class connectivity solutions that can catapult them to the forefront of the knowledge and digital economy,” Chief Executive Officer of Digicel Guyana, Gregory Dean said in a company statement.
But GTT highlighted that its fibre internet network investment can go from Guyana to the USA and back and so that telecoms company was positioned to provide 5G and other next generation services to Guyana. “We expect that with our planned service enhancements, our customers will not be able to discern a difference in service whether they are in New York or Guyana,” GTT’s CEO, Justin Nedd was quoted as saying in a company statement.
Against the background of GTT saying it would fully implement legislation to formally open the telecommunications market to competition, GTT said it was looking forward to partnering with the government so that all Guyanese have the benefit of a transparent and competitive telecommunications sector. “GTT has been serving Guyana and supporting the evolution of the country for near 30 years. As always,
we stand ready to provide reliable connectivity, new services and technologies that allow consumers and businesses to thrive and support the growing Guyanese economy,” Mr. Nedd said.
Digicel Guyana noted that “Guyana is on the brink of a new dawn.” With a McKinsey study showing that 10% higher broadband
penetration delivers a GDP boost to a country of up to 1.4%, and Guyana poised to become the fastest growing economy in the world on foot of the biggest oil discovery in years, Digicel said access to world class telecommunications services – and all the attendant benefits and opportunities they bring – will mean that everyday people will also feel the benefits.
The Digicel Guyana CEO thanked President Irfaan Ali and his administration for “delivering on their promise to expeditiously to liberalise the telecommunications sector. “We are stepping into our future with confidence and are getting ready to make the transformational benefits of high-speed connectivity a powerful reality for Guyanese. We look forward to a short administrative process to grant us the necessary permissions to make the desired expansions and upgrades of our services,” he said.
Since the United States-headquartered Atlantic Tele-Network (ATN) bought out the state-run Guyana Telecommunications Corporation (GTC) in 1990 and formed GTT, days-long waiting time to make an overseas telephone call have become an experience of the past with the introduction of the International Direct Distance Dialling. The landline service has been expanded to several other areas, and Internet service, submarine international fibre optic connectivity and mobile phone service have been brought to Guyana by GTT.
On the other hand, customers complain about various aspects of GTT’s services.
Digicel Guyana’s international voice and data connectivity was for the most part limited to going through GTT as the monopoly provider in keeping with its 1990 licence when the technologies had been much older.
Prime Minister Mark Phillips late Monday night announced that Guyana formally broke GTT’s 30-year old monopoly on international voice and data, paving the way for fierce competition in the telecoms market ranging from cheaper phone calls to higher quality Internet and several other related services.
“It is anticipated that Guyanese will feel an immediate positive impact from the implementation of these legislation, which create a modern and competitive environment for telecommunications, and which will immediately result in greater choices, better quality of service and lower prices for consumers, while at the same time ensuring that all operators continue to enjoy all benefits conferred under the old legislative regime,” he said.
The Prime Minister said government has issued Commencement Orders fully bringing into force the Telecommunications Act 2016 and the Public Utilities Commission Act 2016. He did not mention what were the issues that had to be resolved before this step was taken.
He explained that the legislation specifically addresses the expansion of telecommunications networks and services into unserved and underserved areas through the institution of a new universal access/universal services programme.