Independent expert to review fibre-optic cable project – PM

-two years behind schedule

An independent third party expert has been requested to examine the project bringing the terrestrial fibre-optic cable from Brazil, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds has said.

Responding to questions posed by APNU parliamentarian Joseph Harmon in the National Assembly on the project and its Manager Alexei Ramotar, Hinds in a written response said that the Dense Wavelength Division Multiplex Long-Haul (DWDM) Fibre project is well within its budget and while it has an estimated cost of US$5 million, approximately US$600,000 still remains in the budget, he said.

“It should be noted that this project is using local labour and contractors. Since this is the first project of its kind for Guyana, it has encountered some challenges which were unknown, which have created delays,” he said in the response circulated in parliament on Monday.

“There was improper handling and installation of the fibre cables which has led to damage of some lengths of cable. In addition, road (wash-aways) and the building of the new 4-lane road on the EBD, as well as vandalism have significantly contributed to the delays of approximately two years in implementing this project,” the Prime Minister said.

The fibre optic project was one of those that former President of Guyana Bharrat Jagdeo hyped during the months in the run up to the 2011 general elections.

Hinds’ explanation to Harmon underlined that two distinct projects were encompassed in the question that he asked. The DWDM is separate from what is known as the E-Government Project. This project, Hinds said, aims to provide the necessary Information and Communication Technology so that government can provide better service to all Guyanese.

It encompasses the setting up of a fibre link between Moleson Creek, Corentyne; Georgetown; Parika, East Bank Essequibo and a fibre ring within Georgetown. A high speed microwave link will also be set up between Linden and Georgetown and will serve as a back up to the fibre network. This microwave network will be managed from the data centre in Georgetown which will serve as the repository for government information “allowing for more efficient access by government agencies, better security through a centralized command and control centre…” A cloud design is being employed for this. The project also entails a wireless access network catering for the connection of schools, community centres and other government agencies with smaller data needs.

Hinds asserted that this project has not had extensive delays. He said the project was to be completed in April 2014 but this has now been extended to August 2014 for a number of technical changes. This included switching from WiMax and EVDO networks to an LTE-Advanced network. The PM said that this change made in January 2012 allowed for a lower cost network. The savings were employed to shift from 30 WiMax/EVDO sites to 54 LTE-Advanced sites, thereby allowing better high speed coverage in the major populated areas. It also allowed the creation of a new site in Lethem and this caused a delay of about two months.

In October 2012 a redesign of the LTE tower foundation was done between the Ministry of Public Works representing the E-Government Project Unit and Huawei, the contractor. The redesign delayed the project by around one month. Additional delays arose from the difficulty in procuring piles and bad weather. The PM said that E-government project costs US$32m, is within budget and there are no expected cost overruns.

Referring to the DWDM, Hinds said that it had its genesis in 2007 when international communications to and from Guyana were disrupted for approximately three weeks. This project aims at a high capacity, high speed terrestrial fibre network linking up with a Brazilian fibre optic cable which is connected to the global network. There are repeater and add/drop sites which will ensure that the network can be extended as needs be.

Several local companies were contracted for this project: Cummings Electrical –installation of power, solar generator for DWDM sites; Dynamic Engineering – Georgetown to Wismar, fibre installation;  Dax Contracting Services – Wismar to Mabura, fibre installation; Bovell Construction – Mabura to Kurupukari, fibre installation; MMC – Kurupukari to Lethem, fibre installation.

On Ramotar’s qualifications, Hinds provided his CV and said he has a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo and a BSc in Computer Science (Distinction) from the University of Guyana and over a decade of work experience. Hinds noted that he was hired for the project in 2010 prior to his father’s run for presidential office. His gross salary is $650,000 per month.

He served as a network engineer at Guysuco from 2002 to 2007 and also worked at Digicel before moving to the Office of the President in 2009.

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