Critical year for telecommunication liberalisation plans

The Ministry of Public Telecommunications has set an aggressive agenda of achieving liberalisation in the telecommunications industry. This has been a pursuit for several years.
Public Telecommunications Minister, Cathy Hughes, shared with Kaieteur News that the Ministry has been working on a number of preparatory activities for commencement of the new regulatory regime following the passage of the Telecommunications Act in 2016.
According to the Minister, the two main tracks are negotiations for liberalisation of the sector and preparing the regulations which will be managed by the Telecommunications Agency.
The Minister maintained that the agency will be brought on stream when the negotiations come to a close with Atlantic Tele-Network International (ATNI), the parent of the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT).
To date, the Ministry has completed the agency’s structure, job descriptions, financial regulations, staff manual and administrative procedures for commencement in the first quarter of this year.
“Preparations for this new agency are moving apace,” Hughes stated.
It was the expressed view that the talks between Government and ATNI would have concluded at the end of the year, paving the way for the liberalisation of the sector.
Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, had led the opening of serious discussions with its parent company ATNI in December 2016.
These discussions dealt with the company ending its claimed exclusivity to international communications and landline services.
Hughes had said that negotiations would have come to an end in July 2016. However, Hughes had said that liberalisation was delayed due to talks between GTT and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).
She said that the company and the tax entity were working out tax issues.
Hughes had said that these talks will have an impact on the liberalisation negotiations between her Ministry, GTT and Digicel Guyana.
The Ministry has also commissioned and received important technical policy outputs relating to Spectrum Management. These include a spectrum management policy, pricing and spectrum allocation.
With respect to licences, Section 93(4)(b) of the Telecommunications Act requires that Government terminate and re-issue the licences to currently authorised operators.
According to Hughes, the Ministry has invited the two currently licensed telecommunications operators, Digicel and GTT to commence discussions with a view to finalising the licenses that will be required under the new regulations.
The Ministry, according to Hughes, will early this year, engage prospective licensees and others who are operating without a licence.