DIGICEL baffled at long delays in liberalisation process
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Digicel Guyana, Gregory Dean, has expressed his disappointment over the continuous lengthy delays in the liberalisation process.
Speaking with Guyana Times on Wednesday, Dean related that his company, which has been pushing for an end to the monopoly of the local telecommunications sector, does not have any recent indication that there is much progress.
“It’s still uncertain what’s happening with the progress and what’s causing this long delay… We’ve had discussions with the Government and the updates we get are that discussions are still ongoing. But obviously, the concern for us, you know, is discussions have been going on for years and we still don’t understand what is the main sticking point and why we still can’t have liberalisation,” he posited.
According to the Digicel CEO, it has been 12 years since his company entered the Guyana market and has been promised liberalisation every year since.
“The legislation was passed in Parliament in 2016 and so we anticipated shortly after the passage of the legislation, there would be full liberalisation; but once again, we’ve been quiet disappointed that there has been little or no progress since,” Dean asserted.
In fact, he said that after the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) earlier this year, it was anticipated that the liberalisation process would swiftly move towards a final resolution but that was not forthcoming.
After missing the 2018 year-end deadline for the complete liberalisation of the public telecommunications sector, Government in March inked a “non-binding” agreement with Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) – a company, owned by US-based Atlantic Tele-Network (ATN) — which has held the monopoly over the local telecommunications market for more than 20 years.
A joint statement from the Public Telecommunications Ministry and GTT had stated that while the MoU was non-binding, the signing nevertheless represented a major step toward fully liberalising Guyana’s telecommunications market. It was noted too that the parties have further agreed to continue discussions on all outstanding issues with the objective of eventually reaching a binding agreement.
“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 liberalisation for the citizens of Guyana,” Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes stated in the missive.
In June 2018, Minister Hughes had explained that the extra delays in the liberalisation process were as a result of other issues surrounding the final document having to be reviewed.
Citizens were, for many months, exasperated with the many delays that had occurred, but the Minister, at that time, had pointed out there were many other issues which surrounded the liberalisation. In fact, she further refuted the reports of it being completed until 2020.
Presently, there are two telecommunications companies which provide mobile phone services to the Guyanese public. The liberalisation of the sector is heavily dependent upon the settlement of a US$44 million tax claim against GTT.
However, the company continues to enjoy the monopoly in international voice and data services until 2030.
In January of 2018, it was reported that negotiations with GTT and the ministry to address the lifting of the monopoly were effective. These negotiations began in 2016 with the intention of ending the 26-year monopoly on the fixed line market.
The liberalisation, once in place, would ensure there was fair competition and regulation among all enterprises in the business sector.