Guyana suffered complete outages in its international telecoms traffic and internet services yesterday for around five hours after offshore damage to the Suriname Guyana Submarine Cable System (SGSCS).
Telecoms provider, the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) resumed service partially around midday and said that local and international technical teams were continuing to work to ensure full restoration to the network.
Simultaneous with the failure of the SGSCS, Suriname reported that the backup Americas 11 cable was also experiencing failures and government and private sector stakeholders yesterday said that the situation has brought to light the need for reliable technology and diversity in service providers.
GT&T is responsible for Guyana’s largest portion of international communication and as a result of the SGSCS’s damage Guyanese were unable to make outgoing international telephone calls even from landlines.
In a statement, the company said the “marine disruption,” which occurred 277 km off the Guyana shore, resulted in customers experiencing intermittent failure in all international traffic and internet during the day. The damage also affected the main fibre optic path out of Guyana, it noted.
The problem was described as being a cut along the cable. GT&T’s public relations officer Nadia De Abreu told Stabroek News that services had been completely down since 7am, after internal servers detected a system failure at 5:10am.
De Abreu said that technicians first noticed a failure of the system but could not determine what went wrong.
GT&T could not say how the cable was damaged but had a team of local engineers and technicians assessing the problem on the ocean floor along with an international team which comprises engineers from the Suriname telecommunications company Telesur. The extent of the damage is not yet known, nor the cost to GT&T due to system downtime.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett told Stabroek News that her ministry was affected by the system failure of Guyana’s largest internet provider.
She said that such a situation in this day and age was the reason why the government’s E-governance fibre optic cable was essential.
Rodrigues-Birkett stated that Guyanese “providers would have to look at the market and assess feasibility… but this is why the government has been bent on having additional resources.” She said that her ministry relies heavily on “real time work… emails and certainly maintaining contact with our missions abroad has to be a priority.”
She added that the shutdown while not caused locally made work challenging.
The private sector was also concerned that any ongoing failures would impede further work for the day.
President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Clinton Urling stated that a half day shutdown of internet and international communication was a sad fact in 2013.
Urling said that the current level of service from providers across the board was “inadequate and insufficient,” while adding that the costs associated with what is provided is erroneous.
He told Stabroek News that having one provider go down and subsequently crippling telecommunications services for half a working day was not in line with economic development exigencies. “It is challenging. It was challenging.
We need more providers and we need to be investing more in telecommunications… the charges for more bandwidth are definitely too much, but that comes with the lack of development of this industry,” he said.
According to Urling, one service provider was not good enough, especially since it is tied to international development and cross communication which needs to be guaranteed. He said that small businesses that were making moves to advance were being charged too much money for extra bandwidth and as a result their expansion and innovation could be delayed.
Urling stated that even cloud software initiatives were limited in Guyana due to current download capabilities.
Meanwhile MoneyGram and Western Union branches across the country were incapacitated during the outage period as they rely on GT&T as their service provider. For the most part, Stabroek News was told the same thing by most of the locations visited— that traffic was not heavy during the morning hours and that since servers began to work again by noon they would be able to process the heavy traffic that came in the afternoon and evening.
However, Stabroek News was told that GT&T did not notify Western Union and MoneyGram of the outage, which left many locations wondering what exactly was going on. “They didn’t notify us what was happening, and actually our service was not responsive since around 3:00 this morning,” Stabroek News was told by a MoneyGram representative.