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Guyana abandons Brazil fibre in favour of satellite links

20 Sep 2016

The Guyanese government is looking to salvage its disastrous ‘E-Government’ network rollout by abandoning the infrastructure in the country’s hinterland and expanding the fibre footprint in the coastal regions. Demerara Waves writes that the state is expected to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Chinese vendor Huawei in the next two weeks with a view to rolling out fibre to areas such as Linden, Bartica and Mabaruma. The agreement would also see Huawei provide additional support and training for Guyanese engineers. Meanwhile, the state has decided to abandon the non-functioning overland fibre-optic cable connecting the coastal system to Brazil in favour of satellite links. To that end, the government has invited expressions of interest (EoI) from satellite providers to determine the cost of using the technology to provide services to the country’s sparsely populated interior. Commenting on the move, Floyd Levi, the head of the Ministry of Public Telecommunications’ E-Government division, explained that bandwidth requirements in rural areas are not that high but went on to say that: ‘We also recognise that the numbers we will be looking at could be quite huge so we expect to have an economy of scale brought to bear when pricing is considered.’

As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, work on the E-Government network started in 2010 and sought to connect the government’s various agencies and offices across the country, and allow those bodies to provide the public with digital services. The programme envisioned the deployment of a fibre-optic backbone network running along the densely populated coastal region and connecting with Brazil overland in the southwest at Lethem, whilst wireless technology would then be used for last-mile connectivity to the relevant institutions. Whilst the coastal system was successfully installed, the spur connecting to Brazil became mired in technical difficulties, and its construction was later revealed to have been chronically mismanaged, leaving vast stretches of the system vulnerable to repeated damage and requiring constant, costly repairs. The cost to repair and reinstall the route properly was estimated at between USD10 million and USD28 million, and in early 2015 a new government put a stop to the project until it could reassess its options.

Guyana, Ministry of Public Works and Communications, Public Utilities Commission (PUC)

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