Guyanese incumbent Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) is set to begin negotiations with the government regarding the end of its monopoly on international voice and data services next month, with talks expected to be completed by the end of the year, Demerara Waves reports, citing Lance Hinds, an adviser to the Minister of Public Telecommunications. The official made the announcement at a public forum earlier this week, and ruled out the possibility of compensating the operator for the remaining nine years of exclusivity, stating: ‘That is not a discussion that is really going to happen, because it is difficult to put a value on an exclusive license for nine years down the road, because you [are then] doing future projections on earnings and that gets into a science that will only get us into a dispute.’ Instead, Mr Hinds said that the talks will focus on whether GTT has any liabilities and the specifics of a new licence.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the government approved the long-awaited Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill (2016) in July this year. The legislation has been designed to pave the way for liberalisation in the market, but there are still several hurdles in the way, including negotiating the end of GTT’s monopoly without risking a lawsuit from the telco, or its parent company, ATN International (formerly Atlantic Tele-Network). The reshuffling of Guyana’s regulatory structure is also required, including the creation of the new Telecommunications Agency – which will incorporate the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) and oversee the sector alongside existing regulator the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) – and the establishment of a host of new regulations covering licence and frequency allocations, interconnection, competition, consumer protection and universal service.
Commenting on the plans, Mr Hinds noted that infrastructure sharing and net neutrality are expected to see fierce opposition from operators: ‘How we manage those kinds of things…is going to be tricky in terms of who is going to hold the infrastructure, who is going to rent from who…because we simply can’t have a situation where every man jack is running fibre all over the town.’ On net neutrality, the official said that operators are hoping to only carry traffic for over-the-top (OTT) VoIP and messaging applications like WhatsApp and Viber for an extra cost, as the use of such services is eating into their traditional voice and SMS revenues. ‘That is concretely opposite to what net neutrality is,’ the official explained, adding: ‘Guyana is probably the first Caricom territory to pass the dilemma of net neutrality legislation … in terms of ensuring that there is no discrimination in terms of the provision of data via telecommunication providers.’