Submarine cable can lower GT&T Internet charges
- company reports

by Sharon Lall
Guyana Chronicle
November 23, 2000

THE Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) could soon introduce cheaper Internet access with the new link through the `Americas 11' cable service, the firm announced yesterday.

The submarine cable linking the Americas provides a clearer, faster and cheaper connection than the one currently used via INTELSAT satellite, officials explained.

Ms Sonita Jagan, GT&T Chief Executive Officer and General Manager said the `Americas II' service was commissioned last month.

She told a GT&T/Ayaya customer forum at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown that GT&T is in the process of making a call connection in the United States to bring Internet service into Guyana at a "better price" using the `Americas II' cable link.

The cable that has been laid throughout the Atlantic and Caribbean provides immense capacity or `band' for countries that have invested in it.

GT&T, with a line in the `Americas II' cable, will be able to open up Guyana to new opportunities and bring the country into the "super-information highway", Jagan added.

The `Americas II' programme is aimed at connecting countries in North and South America by fibre optic cables from Florida through to Brazil.

In the process, a number of shareholder countries will also be connected.

Jagan said the `Americas II' cable passes through French Guiana into Suriname and then Guyana. The three countries had decided it was best to bring the cable into South America.

In the past, these cables would have had a stop-off point in Trinidad and Caribbean islands instead of coming into the mainland of South America, she explained.

The Guyana-Suriname link was done by engineers and technicians from GT&T, TELESUR, the telecommunications company of Suriname and United Caribbean Contractors (UCC) of Suriname.

This involved laying and connecting two lengths of cables measuring 90 kilometres, which joined on the bed in the centre of the Corentyne River.

On either side of the river the cable is buried about three-and-a-half metres beneath the earth and it stretches in snake-like fashion across the river to lend for any eventual tension, officials said.

The underwater cable is about five times the size of that used on land and it has a special armour to withstand attack from sea creatures and corrosion, they explained.

The link enables Guyana and Suriname to interconnect traffic between South and North American countries. Both countries have a maintenance agreement for the shared cost of running the link, according to the officials.

Since the `Americas II' service went into operation, Jagan said, many companies on the mainland of South America have been enquiring whether GT&T is willing to enter into a cable leasing arrangement with them.

"The Americas II cable can actually bring Guyana into the information world and I hope investors recognise that and utilise (the) cable for its product potential," she stated.

Additionally, she said the `Americas II' cable will make it easier for Guyana to introduce `call centres' which have traditionally been used in the United States to process data and calls and answer customer complaints, among other services.

With the `Americas II' cable, Jagan said these centres can be located in countries like Guyana where labour is cheaper and a service of that nature more economical.

GT&T has diversified its operation and is now an Internet provider, PBX provider, data network and cellular provider, apart from the smaller services it caters for, she said.

Cognisant of the changes that have occurred in telecommunications over the last three to five years, Jagan said GT&T must be more "market focussed" and start meeting customers, understand their needs and meeting those needs.

Following complaints from customers, the telephone company recently set up a new system in its operator services department that links all GT&T databases and allows supervisors to hear whether or not operators are giving the public the service they deserve, she said.

Jagan said that system also offers a database by which GT&T can now offer 1-800 and 1-900 services similar to the type used in the U.S.

This arrangement could be used in the tourism industry where persons, for example, can rent GT&T `slots' and have recordings for a weekend guide accessible only by a telephone call, she said.

Jagan said GT&T submitted a proposal to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) requesting a reduction of the cost of mobile cellular service because it had grown to an extent where it is no longer a "premiere service".

According to her, the mobile cellular is considered an alternative to normal telephone service.

Jagan said GT&T also filed a request to change the common method of billing to the Caller Party Pays system used in most Caribbean and European countries.

She assured that GT&T will keep abreast with changing technology and fulfill its mandate of installing telephones across the country.

GT&T, over the course of this year, has invested in line plants which by the end of the year will benefit 10,000 telephone subscribers. The plan will continue next year, Jagan reported.

She said the company has both wireless service and traditional wire line services in areas like Mocha, South Ruimveldt, Canal Number One and Two, Ogle, Campbellville, Prashad Nagar, Queenstown and Alberttown.

GT&T engineers are working to provide services in Port Mourant and Cumberland, as well, she said.

"We will continue that pace. We feel that at this point we have not forgotten our mandate.

"It is, however, a very difficult mandate given the fact that since 1997 we have asked for increased rates and have so far not received those," Jagan stated.

She, however, anticipated "changes" in the relationship between the PUC and GT&T that will allow Guyana to move ahead in the field of technology.

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