Cel*Star signals readiness for countrywide cellular service
By Shirwin Campbell
Guyana Chronicle
July 27, 2004

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CEL* STAR Guyana Inc. officially commissioned its Network Switch Friday, signalling its readiness to launch its countrywide cellular service to Guyanese.

The short but impressive ceremony, which was held at Cel*Star's Head Office, 56 High Street, Kingston was graced with the presence of President Bharrat Jagdeo, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, Opposition Leader Robert Corbin, diplomats, senior officials of the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T), members of the business community, media practitioners as well as the representatives of several organisations including the Guyana Consumers Association.

President Jagdeo was however unable to remain until the programme concluded, due to pressing engagements of state, but the Guyanese leader managed to spend some 40 minutes during which, he was conducted on a tour of the facilities. He also addressed the gathering, and later interacted with employees of the new communications service.

During his presentation, President Jagdeo reiterated his Government's support for the improvement of the telecommunications sector in Guyana. He also congratulated the managers of Cel*Star for persevering in the quest to establish their company even when they faced difficult times.

In the words of the President, the Government has fostered a good working relationship with the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) and has been emphasising the need for competition in the sector. Such competition, Mr Jagdeo noted, "will be good for our people, the quality of service and also for the price of the service being offered".

"Unfortunately, our policy and approach to bring competition to this sector has been stymied through various actions," President Jagdeo added. He expressed the hope, "that in the near future we are prepared so that we can have a better service in terms of international access for our people".

Mr Jagdeo also mentioned what he described as a "worrying development", which situation has to do with the judiciary not dealing expeditiously with matters of national interest.

Too often, President Jagdeo noted, matters of national interest and matters affecting regulatory bodies lie within the judiciary. "And if we really want to be a destination for investment and to be attractive to investment, the executive alone cannot be doing the work and creating the incentives," he admonished.

He continued: "The judiciary must be fair and impartial, but must act expeditiously on these matters."

The President spoke of one particular case involving a tax matter, which was held up for some eight months.

"An injunction has been given and it has not been discharged. And I hope the leadership in the judiciary will take some action in this regard," President Jagdeo said.

Chief Operations Officer of Cel*Star Mr Pierre Strasser, who delivered the feature address, announced that the official launch date will be made shortly. He noted that it has been a long journey for Cel*Star with potholes along the way, but the outcome for consumers and Guyana as a whole will be well worth the wait.

He spoke of significant indications that Cel*Star's opening day is drawing near pointing to progress with the arrival of the equipment to complete the final phase, the positive move with GT&T on interconnection, their expanding team, and the final preparation details for opening day.

Mr. Strasser, giving a "sneak preview" of the features to be offered by the new facility, said that handsets have been selected with options designed to accommodate every category of customer. He said, too, that the pricing packages are flexible and are tailored for each customer.

"We will provide you with more opportunities to call from the convenience of your cell phones without having to worry about your bills. And the roaming feature will allow you to roam across the globe," he promised.

Strasser further added that Cel*Star's focus will be on the customer and the goal is to ensure a positive customer experience every step of the way.

"You deserve and pay for quality and that is what Cel*Star intends to deliver - this includes the quality of the calls, the quality of the options and the quality of the customer service," he explained.

At present, Cel*Star can accommodate some 50,000 subscribers. The company is building capacity for a larger number of clients. To date, US$20M has been invested and another US$18M is in the pipeline for further investment, the official explained.

Strasser expressed thanks, on behalf of Cel*Star, to several key organisations for recognising the importance of competition and working to make it a reality. These bodies include: the Government of Guyana; the Public Utilities Commission (PUC); consumer organisations; and the National Frequency Management Unit.

"They have continued in their efforts to create an environment of progress and development in telecommunications in Guyana," Strasser said of these bodies.

His message to the Guyanese community is, "We are here to serve you. Cel*Star has been blocked by others, who were not interested in a free and competitive market. But we have continued in our mission to service the people of Guyana."

Responding to a query on the possibility of GT&T launching its service before Cel*Star, Strasser declared that his organisation is not afraid of such a development, since it really does not matter who launches first. Pointing out that the competition is good for Guyana, Strasser said that if GT&T should launch its service first, then Cel*Star wishes them good luck.

He further stated that the ongoing issue in the Court will not affect the interconnection agreement, which is scheduled (to come into operation) some time this week.

Strasser pointed out that in telecommunications, two different service providers are more than simply competitors; they are partners, suppliers and customers covering all aspects of business relationships between companies.

In her remarks, Marketing Executive Ms Nicole Johnson stated that Friday's ceremony was a reflection of the organisation's clear, deliberate planning, not only for the launching, but also of the company's competitive, customer care-oriented cellular service that will be second to none.

Ms Johnson explained that with the arrival of their equipment to complete the final phase of Cel*Star's GSM network system, the company remains on schedule for "the launching of Guyana' s first truly competitive cellular service".

"Cel*Star is entering Guyana's cellular market with a high level of technology. Already we have been setting the pace, and our mere presence and intention to offer a high quality service have sparked new efforts in the local telecom sector," the Marketing Executive asserted.

According to Ms. Johnson, Cel*Star remains firm in its belief that competition in the telecommunication sector would benefit all Guyanese consumers and the country as a whole. "Today," she said, "Cel*Star and Guyanese can celebrate the first steps towards an open and competitive cellular sector for the Guyanese community."

President of the Guyana Consumers Association Mr Pat Dial, who also spoke, congratulated Cel*Star for its role in bringing Guyana into the modern world. He joined the other speakers in declaring the event an historic moment in Guyana's telecommunication era.

Mr Dial stated that many consumers are eagerly awaiting the launching of Cel*Star, and he lauded President Jagdeo and the Government of Guyana for giving support to competition.