Digicel CEO Gregory Dean says the company is in favour of a market-driven rollout of its network and services as opposed to a regulated approach currently envisioned under the draft telecoms legislation.
Dean was at the time addressing the media yesterday at the company’s Kingston headquarters on its concerns about the proposed law. He stated that one aspect the law will examine is how to ensure companies spread their services throughout Guyana.
According to the CEO, they believe that Digicel is the “universal service provider” in Guyana with a wider service and coverage area than any other company and continues to expand. “Let the market dictate how the process will be done rather than using rules and regulation, let the market forces drive it initially. Some of the things, we feel you might want to do them, but at a later stage once you get to the point where you say look market forces are no longer bringing us the benefits we think we can derive,” he said.
However, he added that Digicel has no fear of a liberalised sector since it was what it has been calling for since it began operations here. “Throughout the Caribbean and many countries in the world they have liberalization. I’m not sure why in Guyana we’re treating it as though it’s something revolutionary. This is something that has been done throughout the world and various operators have been able to function in liberalised sectors, so to be quite honest we don’t understand what all the major … fuss is about,” he said.
Acknowledging that there can be challenges for operators in a liberalised sector, he said the way forward is usually through mature conversation and the adoption of systems that are beneficial for the country. However, Dean said he believed that the benefits of a liberalised sector far outweigh the drawbacks. “The persons who are saying what will happen in a liberalised sector, I mean what’s their opinion on the situation now? What is the benefit to anyone except GT&T now?” The failure to have the sector liberalised, he added, is an impediment to more major Digicel investments. He noted that the company has invested over US$60M since the start of operations in November 2006.
“We’ve always said from the beginning, in terms of major investment, that some point will come in the business where legislation becomes a bottleneck to our further development. The longer we have the current monopoly situation, I think the longer it is [until] Digicel will be able to bring further investment to Guyana,” Dean said.
He said the company has done the best it can with the current situation but there was always going to come a time when it would have to call for major returns on its investment to date. Dean said the company has maintained its market share with over 250,000 customers but he was reluctant to put a dollar value to its 2010 business, merely saying it was a very good year for Digicel.