Competition comes to cellular phone market
Cel*Star set to invest US$20M By Oscar P. Clarke
Stabroek News
April 5, 2003

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GT&T and Cel*Star Guyana Inc signed an interconnection agreement yesterday which will allow each otherís customers to access the two companiesí networks.

With the conclusion of the agreement following months of negotiations, Cel*Star is set to commence establishing its network across the country with an initial investment of US$20M much of which will be spent in erecting 21 transmission towers.

Speaking after the signing at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel, GT&Tís Chief Executive Officer Sonita Jagan called the occasion a milestone in the sense that the major telephone company would now be exposed to competition.

The deal, she said, not only represented her companyís commitment to the country but to make it clear that they were not afraid of competition and in fact were happy to do business with legitimate providers. But she said GT&T would guard against those who were not serious about undertaking real investment in the country.

Jagan said that the negotiations between the two companies were intense particularly over the last couple of weeks when they needed to iron out several technical details.

She said with the agreement the way had now been paved for the liberalisation of the sector with the cellular component having always been open to competition.

She did warn Cel*Star to be wary of GT&T as it intended to offer strong competition.

Gregory Libertiny who is Vice President, Business Development of Trans World Telecom, Caribbean (TWTC), the parent company of Cel*Star, said he was in support of Jaganís comments which he joked was a change from the period of negotiations.

But Libertiny saw the agreement as a fair one which was worked out after protracted efforts by the two sides who had to ponder over a lot of documentation.

United States Ambassador, Ronald Godard saw the agreement as a significant milestone marking the partnership between the large US investment in Guyana by Atlantic Tele Network (ATN) and a newcomer on the scene which also happened to be a subsidiary of a US-owned company.

He said telecommunications was vital for growth and alluded to the rapid expansion of the Information Technology (IT) sector which he said offered access to high paying jobs while offering employees opportunities in an exciting, dynamic field.

Prime Minister Sam Hinds said Guyana had to do everything possible to seize a share of the new type of work.

He urged the two companies to continue working together since there was a lot of room for development in the country.

The ceremony attended by officials of the private and public sectors and consumer bodies was also witnessed by functionaries of the sectorís regulator, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Copies of the signed documents are expected to be lodged with the regulatory body.

It is the companyís hope, according to Libertiny, to have the service up and running by the end of the September once they keep to an aggressive schedule.

Preliminary targets for employment at Cel*Star have been set at about 50 persons and would grow with the response to the service.

The California-based company, is also involved in other parts of the region including Grenada and St Lucia.

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