Only 20% of customers have devices to access 5G – Digicel CEO

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While recognising that Guyana will have to eventually move to 5G, Digicel Guyana Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Gregory Dean has pointed out that only about 20 per cent of customers here have the devices to efficiently access this high broadband level.

He made this disclosure after he was asked, during an interview with local reporters last week, about whether Digicel would be moving towards implementing 5G.

Dean explained that while it was a necessary journey, now might not be the best time for this type of service. He added the reality was that a lot of Guyanese did not have the devices that could facilitate 5G services – something that is also a challenge in many other countries.

“People just don’t have the 5G devices. So, I would say it’s something we have to do; we know we have to go to 5G. The time period between now and I suppose when majority of the customers have 5G phones – it’s a difficult one to predict. But I think we know in the future, we have to go to 5G and we’re working on the roadmap as to how we get there,” he indicated.

According to the CEO, a mere 20 per cent of customers in Guyana have devices with the capacity to efficiently access 5G services.

“At the moment, I would say less than 30 per cent of Guyana have 5G phones, and even the ones with the 5G phones, there might be issues with them not being able to access the 5G network as well. So, we can easily end up with 20 per cent or less persons who can actually use a 5G network [at this time]. So, I think our focus at the moment is trying to provide the best speed for the majority of the customers,” CEO Dean asserted.

On this note, the Digicel CEO said they were trying to get the company’s mobile Long-Term Evolution (LTE) services expanded throughout the country. In fact, he said that even with the primacy of the LTE network, there were still many customers who did not have LTE devices.

“So, I think it’s part of the process and it’s why we do a lot of the sales in terms of providing LTE devices. Some people still have the old SIMS and that’s why we keep inviting persons to come forward to upgrade your SIMS, because you need the newer SIMS in order to access LTE network,” he stated.

According to Dean, billions have been invested in expanding Digicel’s LTE network.
“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,” he explained.

However, the CEO went on to note that there were specific communities that have had recent issues, and Digicel has been doing upgrades there. 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 was even working on having the upgrades expedited.

Meanwhile, the CEO provided an update as it relates to the telecommunications company’s 2000- kilometre subsea fibreoptic cable which it has been laying with the intention of linking 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 subsea 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 noted.