Miami firm applies for cellular phone licence here

by Linda Rutherford
Guyana Chronicle
September 26, 2000

CEL*STAR CARIBBEAN, a telecommunications company operating out of Miami, Florida, is interested in expanding its services here and is looking for a local partner to back it in an estimated US$21M joint venture.

The grouping, which initially met and held discussions with President Bharrat Jagdeo at the Miami conference December, formally submitted its application for a licence yesterday to Prime Minister Sam Hinds who has overall responsibility for public utilities.

Acting on their behalf was former Guyanese journalist Mr Wesley Kirton, who is now Director of Government Affairs of the parent company, HL Global Ventures Limited which has its headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, and a regional office in Orlando, Florida.

According to an executive summary of the 600-odd page document which was handed over to the Prime Minister, the group proposes to:

* build and operate a 900 megahertz (MHz) GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) cellular network for Guyana;

* implement and operate an international gateway, using either fibre optics or V-SAT to route international calls from the cellular network to Cel*Star Caribbean's hub in Miami;

* provide Internet services through the cellular network and Wireless Local Loop (WLL).

The group proposes setting up a locally registered company which will operate under the name, Cel*Star Guyana Limited, and to offer a 30-40 per cent partnership "to a qualified local partner/partners to ensure local investment and participation in the project and to promote economic progress".

After the formalities were completed, Mr Hinds said the grouping had followed up its discussions with President Jagdeo with several meetings here.

"We've had some discussions and they are aware of our situation in Guyana with respect to the telecoms sector which we want to move to an open competitive system", he said.

"We want to position Guyana so that Guyana and Guyanese can benefit from all the opportunities that modern technology, particularly information technology, is bringing".

Kirton, in reply, reinforced what Mr Hinds said in that the grouping was "fully aware of the liberalisation and the reforms the Government of Guyana is committed to undertake in the telecommunications sector".

He said that it was against this background that the grouping spoke with President Jagdeo at the 1999 Miami Conference and subsequently had a team come here for two rounds of talks.

"We have now completed the licence application which is a very detailed document covering all aspects of the proposed operation", he said, noting the company intends to make every aspect of its proposal available to the government for its consideration.

With this in mind, he said, the grouping has sought to address a number of issues, beginning with the technical proposal and introduction of the company and explanation of the technology it intends to use.

"We have discussed the question of the impact of competition and talked about the quality of services we intend to offer the Guyanese community if the licence is granted; the marketing concepts and exactly how we would proceed with that; the type of equipment we will use and we even went as far as providing a preliminary business plan", Kirton said.

According to the executive summary, the GSM 900 MHz system was decided upon as being the preferred mode of transmission not only for Guyana but the entire Caribbean including the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas where Cel*Star also has interests.

As outlined in the application, the summary says, the GSM system offers excellent service and superior quality for future cellular operations. It is also designed in such a way that it can be upgraded for the future integration of high-speed data services.

It says further that with the continued emphasis on GSM in this hemisphere, Cel*Star's proposed network will not only meet both local and international demand but also position Guyana to take full advantage of the opportunities which modern technology presents in areas such as wireless voice and data transmission, cellular telephony and e-commerce.

In the belief that "strong technical, financial, managerial and marketing resources are essential to the successful establishment and operation of a cellular network in Guyana", the summary says, Cel*Star and its affiliates have come up with and offered to guarantee three pre-conditions.

These are the necessary solid financial capacity; expertise and proven experience in the planning, managememt and operation of GSM Cellular Networks, and the management, marketing sales and human resources training in environments similar to Guyana's.

The grouping anticipates that it will take about 12 to 14 months, from the time the licence is granted, to become fully operable.

It proposes doing so in two phases, the first of which will see the installation of about 27 cell sites within seven to nine months of the issue of licence. In the second phase, it plans installing an additional 35 cells, based on the surmise that the channel capacity of the implemented BTS in Phase One will see a substantial increase, following the demand and subscriber growth.

The grouping also proposes forming a strategic alliance with the Guyana Telephone & Telegraph Company (GT&T) by leasing certain of its infrastructure.

"It is imperative that GT&T provides interconnection to its fixed and wireless networks for Cel*star's cellular network", the summary says.

"Cel*Star's financial projections take into account internationally defined prices for such interconnectivity", it added.

Kirton said the grouping has not yet approached GT&T with its proposal, but looked forward to doing so as soon as the licence is granted.

"We look forward, in the event we are granted a licence, to have fruitful discussions with GT&T. We have budgeted for that kind of cooperation in terms of being able to lease some of their infrastructure if they so desire; to cooperate and make it as mutually beneficial for both operators", Kirton said.

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