GTT yesterday stated that it has more than enough capacity to handle all of Guyana’s overseas traffic and it called for Digicel’s bypass operation to be audited by an “independent and trusted organization”.
In an increasingly bitter row between the two phone companies, Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) in a statement appeared to also be responding to a release by the Ministry of Public Telecommunications on March 26 which had raised the issue of whether GTT had adequate network capacity to take care of all of this country’s needs.
GTT’s statement yesterday sought to up the pressure on Digicel over a bypass operation via Suriname which recently came to the public’s notice.
It said that the record shows that GTT operates a reliable international service, employs over 600 and has the capacity to handle the country’s overseas needs.
It charged that on the other hand, Digicel operates an unlawful bypass service that the public has little knowledge of and as to whether taxes are paid.
GTT said that the people of Guyana deserve to know how much Digicel’s bypass operation has cost the country.
GTT also contended that its system is built to handle more than 70Gbps capacity which exceeds what is needed to handle all international traffic by more than 50% and it is currently operating well below capacity. The phone company which set up here in 1990 said it also has redundant paths to the internet via subsea fibre optics. It also boasted that it had paid over US$45m in taxes over the last five years.
On March 25th, GTT had issued a statement calling on the government to initiate an independent investigation of what it said was an “illegal, unlicensed” cross-border link between Guyana and Suriname being facilitated by Digicel Guyana.
GTT said Digicel had acknowledged engaging in this illegal bypass activity at a recent meeting with the Public Utilities Commission and at other fora but has not been held to account by the relevant authorities.
On March 26, both the Ministry and Digicel issued statements in response. The Ministry said that GTT’s complaint against Digicel’s use of a telecoms link to Suriname was a complex matter which had raised the issue of whether the former has sufficient data capacity to meet local needs.
“This has proven to be a complex matter exacerbated by demands of the market for adequate voice and data services. Among the issues to be considered are whether GTT has sufficient data capacity to meet the needs of the market and the degree of congestion of its network. GTT has been invited to submit relevant information and data to clearly demonstrate that they have the network capacity to ensure that the people (of) Guyana will not be adversely affected by discontinuance of the Digicel link to Suriname”, the statement had said.
The Ministry said that it wished to emphasise that this does not mean the Government is in any way eager to condone the cross-border link “but in this age of such high dependence on telecommunications and the Internet for the conduct of business, learning and many activities of life, we must be satisfied that there is adequate communications available for the people”.
Digicel in its statement on March 26 said that it considered the GTT statements to be another irresponsible attempt to deflect from the material issues that have now been brought to bear upon GTT by the onset of liberalisation here.
“Digicel wishes to state that any question of the illegality of any conduct on the part of Digicel and as to the services that Digicel can properly provide to the public can only be determined upon the judicial construction of the respective licences of both Digicel and GTT and upon consideration of all the relevant facts.
“At present there are matters before the court in which the court is called upon to make determinations in relation to the same issues. One such matter is the Constitutional Motion filed by Digicel against GTT in which Digicel challenges the fundamental legality of GTT’s authorisations to operate in Guyana and the extent to which these run counter to the tenets of the Constitution of the Republic of Guyana. It is Digicel’s view that it is only when the court has ruled on these fundamental legal principles can any determination be made in relation to legality”, the company said.