Digicel sues Suriname regulator over shutdown of Guyana data link

Digicel has initiated legal action against Suriname’s telecommunications regulator for blocking its cross-border data link between that country and Guyana.

A report published yesterday in The Irish Times said the Telecommunications Authority Suriname (TAS) shut down the allegedly illegal microwave link, which Digicel used to feed data capacity to its unit in Guyana. As a result, there were significant data outages for Digicel’s customers here.

The report noted that TAS appears to have made its move under pressure from authorities in Guyana, where rival telecoms provider Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) has long complained that Digicel should be forced to buy its data capacity from the company instead of feeding it over the border, presumably for less cost.

The report also noted that GTT, which is partially state-owned, has previously alleged that Digicel has deprived Guyana of US$30 million in lost charges by bypassing its network. It claims the link is illegal. Digicel has denied those claims.

Digicel, which has been silent on the situation here, told The Irish Times that it is taking court action: “Digicel disputes any allegations of illegality and as the matter is currently before the court, we are unable to comment any further at this time.”

The report said it is understood Digicel is seeking an injunction to force TAS to reverse its actions and a ruling is expected soon, possibly next week.

GTT recently said that it had made commercial offers to Digicel over an extended period to provide capacity that would resolve—and would have averted—its current network failure.

The company also noted that it had not taken action against Digicel Suriname or the Surinamese government.

These sentiments were reiterated on Monday by GTT head Justin Nedd, who said that the company had not commenced legal proceedings or threatened any legal proceedings in Suriname and that it recognised that the Surinamese regulators are executing their mandate.

The Irish Times added that Suriname and Guyana, which have populations of 500,000 and 700,000, respectively, are two of Digicel’s only three markets in South America, with the other being French Guiana.

“It also has significant operations in Central America, the Caribbean and Pacific region, with about 14 million subscribers. It is currently seeking to raise [US]$500 million in asset sales and also conclude a bond swap deal to help it ease the burden of its [US]$6.7 billion debt pile,” the report added.

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