GT&T and Cel*Star Guyana Inc. sign landmark agreement
By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
April 5, 2003

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CHIEF Executive Officer of the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company Ltd. (GT&T), Ms. Sonita Jagan yesterday declared that the telephone company, which enjoys a monopoly in Guyana, is not afraid of competition and is willing to do business with legitimate investors.

Jagan made this disclosure during the signing ceremony of an ‘Interconnection Agreement’ between GT&T and Cel*Star Guyana Inc., a United States based telecommunications company.

This landmark agreement will see Cel*Star investing an initial US$20 million in Guyana, in addition to creating some 50 jobs.

It is understood that this ‘interconnection’ is a mechanism through which two telecommunications operators allow their respective customers to access each other’s network and services - in this case GT&T and Cel*Star.

Officials explained that this type of interconnection is governed by a commercial agreement entered into between the two operators under country regulations.

Interconnection is a fact of life in the telecommunications environment and is essential if the patchwork of individual networks is to operate as a seamless whole, officials said.

In this regard, Cel*Star would be setting up in Guyana a similar network like GT&T where it will have its own customers and offer its own services. With this interconnection agreement, Cell*Star customers would be able to communicate with GT&T customers, and vice-versa.

Mr. Gregory Libertiny, Vice President Business Development, Trans World Telecom, Caribbean (TWTC), which is the parent company of Cel*Star Guyana Inc. said the new company is working towards providing service to customers by the third quarter of this year.

He described yesterday’s signing of the agreement, which was done at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown as “a major and significant event for Guyana”.

The agreement was signed by Libertiny for Cel*Star and Jagan for GT&T.

“This for me is a very important milestone in the sense that there is always the talk about competition and of GT&T not wanting anyone in the country and things like that. So I think this here represents our commitment, not only to Guyana, but to make it very clear that GT&T is in fact not afraid of competition and more-so that we are extremely willing and extremely happy to do business with legitimate investors and legitimate providers in this country,” Jagan told those present at the signing ceremony.

“What we intend to do is to guard against those companies that are not serious about doing serious investment in Guyana,” Jagan said.

In this regard, she pointed out that when Cel*Star first approached the Guyana Government to get a license in Cellular and then subsequently approached GT&T on the issue of interconnection and after looking at the players in Cel*Star, GT&T “realised that they were serious players and we are extremely willing and happy to undertake negotiations with Cel*Star to develop that interconnection”.

Jagan noted that over the last couple of weeks there has been very intense negotiations between GT&T and Cel*Star. She expressed satisfaction that the agreement has finally been reached and signed.

She also indicated that it is a pleasure to work with another company which is knowledgeable about telecommunication and how it operates in the world - with regards to standards and protocols.

“We are therefore very happy and relieved to be able to have a company that actually understands telecommunications to be talking across the table with us and I think today marks the conclusion of all that intense negotiations…,” the CEO of GT&T asserted.

Jagan, however, in welcoming the new company, warned that GT&T will be a “tough competitor”.

“GT&T is here to do business. We are here to invest in this country. We have probably invested over US$170M already in this country and we intend to continue to invest in Guyana as we try to carry telecommunications and this country forward,” Jagan said.

United States Ambassador to Guyana, Mr. Ronald Godard said he was very pleased to be at the signing ceremony since it is a very important milestone which “marks a partnership between the largest US investment in Guyana” referring to GT&T’s parent company (Atlantic Tele Network) and Cel*Star’s parent company (TWTC).

He said he is delighted to see these two US based companies come together and invest in Guyana and he wished them every success in the future.

Goddard said there is a considerable body of evidence that political and economic control within societies is dependent on the characteristics of the electronic communications environment.

According to Godard, this is very true in this modern age since telecommunications play a very important role in becoming part of the basic primary infrastructure for economic and social development. Access to telecommunications services is a minimum requirement for participating in domestic and international markets, he said.

He also noted that information technology is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world economy, and one which creates well-paid jobs.

Prime Minister Sam Hinds also lauded the initiative taken by the two companies and wished them well in the future.

He noted that we in Guyana are going through a time of change and said there are lots of room for development in Guyana.

Among those present at the signing ceremony were Chairman of the watch-dog Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Justice (rtd) Prem Persaud; Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy; Deputy Mayor of Georgetown, Mr. Robert Williams; members of the consumer movement and the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting; government and regional officials and members of the Diplomatic Community.

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