Minister of Public Telecommunications Catherine Hughes has warned that negotiations with Atlantic Tele-Network (ATN), the US-based parent company of incumbent operator Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT), regarding the end of the latter’s monopolies in several markets may not be finalised by the end of July this year, as initially planned. Kaieteur News cites the official as saying that the talks, which were initiated in August last year after the passing of the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill 15/2016, are ‘going well’ but are likely to overshoot their planned completion date. Mrs Hughes explained that the process had been delayed by questions over spectrum pricing and the mechanisms for issuing licences, both of which are set to be handled by a new regulatory body, the National Telecommunications Agency (NTA), which has yet to be established. Under the current plans for the sector, the NTA will absorb and expand on the powers of one of the existing authorities, the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU). Further, the involvement of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) in the process has further complicated matters, though the official noted that she could not comment further on that side of talks, as ‘GRA is a totally independent agency’.
Negotiating an end to GTT’s monopolies are a central component of the government’s plans to liberalise the nation’s telecoms markets, with other key reforms including restructuring the regulatory system. That process took a step forward this week with the swearing-in of Dela Britton as the new chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The new head of the commission said she would immediately begin work on hiring professionals with additional skills to accommodate the broader powers of the authority under the new legislation: ‘We are on the eve of liberalisation, so the Commission is being retooled … All the necessary directives have to be put in place, because our mandate under the new regulations will expand beyond what is currently in place.’