Digicel says competition will “heat up” as it announces plans to land subsea cable, upgrade mobile data network

Gregory Dean, Chief Executive Officer of Digicel

With the telecommunications sector finally liberalised, existing service providers are eager to expand their operations, and the situation is no different for Digicel, which had entered the Guyana market in 2006.

Digicel’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Gregory Dean says among the plans for the telecommunications giant is to finally land a subsea fiber optic cable and expand its mobile data network across the country.

According to the Digicel boss, competition in the sector is about to “heat up”.

“We would like to upgrade the services we are currently offering, that is in terms of upgrading our current mobile data network. But then we’d also like to get into additional services. Digicel has always been interested in going to remote areas as well,” Dean said during an interview with the State-owned Department of Public Information (DPI).

“We are in the middle of the upgrade of our network and I think it’s the biggest upgrade we’ve had for the network in quite some time. We’re hoping to have that completed in the next two to three months,” he explained.

The Digicel CEO added that: “There are other areas in terms of landing subsea fiber, etc.”

He explained that with the certainty of having the sector liberalised, these matters can be addressed quickly.

Digicel Guyana has repeatedly expressed an interest in landing a subsea fiber optic cable to provide faster and cheaper internet. With the sector finally liberalised, it is hoping to soon embark on this initiative.

According to the Digicel Guyana Head, the competition will “heat up”.

“I expect there’s going to be competition in things like long-distance calling. I expect the data competition to heat up as well. We have our plans and I’m sure GTT will have their plans as well, and E-Networks as well will have their plans, and other companies will come in as well. So, I think it’s a big win for consumers in Guyana,” he said.

He pointed out that the current Covid-19 situation has highlighted the importance of access to internet, for online learning and working from home. He noted too that the information communication technology (ICT) sector is rapidly evolving. With this in mind, Dean posited that Digicel would like to play its part in the process.

Meanwhile, he explained that Digicel’s initial focus was on being a mobile operator, but now, it wants to be a full service provider.

“In addition to the mobile service, we want to do a lot more in terms of our business solution…where companies come to us and we design one-off solutions for them…especially with oil and gas,” he said.

In a statement on Tuesday, Digicel Guyana praised President Dr Irfaan Ali and his Government for ending the 30-year monopoly held by its rival, GTT. Digicel said the situation resulted in Guyanese being left with no choice but to put up with that company’s “poor” service.

According to Digicel, studies have shown that increased access to broadband technology can boost a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by up to 1.4 per cent. The company noted that with Guyana’s economy poised to grow with its oil revenues, it is important for the people to have access to world-class telecommunication services.

GTT CEO, Justin Nedd

The liberalisation of the telecommunications sector will see GTT losing its treasured 30-year monopoly, forcing it to face competition from other service providers. In its statement in response to the Government’s move, GTT CEO Justin Nedd promised that the company would up its game.

“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,” Nedd said.

In July 2016, the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government passed the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill to liberalise the telecoms sector. But it never fully enacted the legislation to bring an end to the GTT monopoly.

Under the coalition Government, it was reported that the liberalisation of the sector was heavily dependent upon the settlement of a US$44 million tax claim against GTT by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).

According to reports, the local telecommunications giant wanted the tax debt settled before moving ahead with liberalisation.

But within two months of the new PPP/C Administration, the sector was finally officially liberalised.