Digicel aiming to offer residential landline service in 1 year

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Gregory Dean, Chief Executive Officer of Digicel

By: Jarryl Bryan

Digicel Guyana is looking to start offering residential landline services to customers in the next 12 months. To facilitate this, the telecoms company is currently engaged in talks with the Government of Guyana to iron out outstanding issues, including those related to liberalisation.

This was explained by Digicel Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Gregory Dean, in an interview with the media on Tuesday. According to Dean, the provision of fixed residential landline services is just one of the several services that Digicel wants to roll out now that the monopoly on the sector has been lifted by liberalisation.

“Both in terms of the residential and business, we are still engaged in discussions with the Government in terms of having adequate spectrum, and also the necessary permissions for offering residential services,” he said.

“In terms of timeline, we’re quite hopeful that most of the information that has been requested has been provided and we are hopeful, by the end of this month or next month, we will have those issues resolved. I would say, once those things are resolved, we can look at within 12 months, having services live for customers.”

Previously, Digicel had been providing limited fixed services to business clients on an Internet Service Provider (ISP) permit. According to him, Digicel wants to expand this and get into the residential side of service.

When asked about the commercial feasibility of the landline service, Dean noted that “landline” is an umbrella term for the host of services Digicel aims to provide, including internet connectivity. He explained that Digicel will roll out the latest technology in providing these services.

“I’m speaking more in terms of residential fibre services. On those fibre services, you can have both internet, you can have content over the fibre, you can have voice calls as well. So, the service for the customer will be the same, but the technology, obviously, we will use the latest fibre rather than the copper system,” he explained.

Dean also provided an update on the 2000 kilometres sub-sea fibre optic cable it has been laying, that would link Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and French Guiana, while also providing service to the oil and gas sector. Last year, Digicel had partnered with French company Orange, to lay the French Guiana leg of the cable.

“Currently that project is on track. In terms of where we’re going with that subsea fibre, we’re coming off the North Coast of Trinidad, we’re going to Guyana, Suriname and also French Guiana. Currently we’re working with multiple partners on this project and we’re still hopeful that we’re definitely going to have it landed in Guyana and operational by early 2024.”

“We’re hoping that with the arrival of the sub-sea fibre, both in terms of improved internet capacity in the country and also, we’ll have redundancy. As you know, Guyana already has two subsea fibres here,” Dean said.

Even as it looks to expand into new areas, Digicel is also working on upgrading its mobile Long-Term Evolution (LTE) services across Guyana. In fact, the CEO explained that billions have been invested in this initiative.

“In terms of the mobile side of the network, we’ve invested $4.5 billion to take LTE across Guyana. Currently we have 86 per cent population coverage with the LTE. And our intention during this year, is to get to 96 per cent.”

“So, throughout our network, we want to ensure we’re able to have LTE service. So, you can have the speeds and the service throughout the network and not just in Georgetown,” Dean explained.
According to Dean, there are specific communities that have had recent issues, which Digicel has been doing upgrades in. These communities include Eteringbang, which has had weather-related connectivity challenges.

“We’ve had challenges with our solar system. The plan is to upgrade our solar system by the end of this month. So, I think by the end of March, persons in Eteringbang will have the benefit of that upgrade. We do have a temporary solution as well, that would also improve the service. But in terms of a long-term solution, we’re aiming to have that completed by the end of this month.”

“We also have service upgrades in Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine. And those, we’re hoping to have completed by the end of April. So, some of the communities we’re targeting are Mabaruma, Port Kaituma and also Bartica, but also many of the other communities would benefit,” he said, adding that Digicel is even working on having these upgrades expedited.