Cel*Star closer to dial tone
-commissions network switch
Stabroek News
July 24, 2004

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Cel*Star Inc yesterday commissioned its network switch in preparation for interconnection with the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company Ltd (GT&T), which is expected in another two weeks.

However, Cel*Star's Global Systems for Mobile Communication (GSM) 900 service is unlikely to come on stream before that of GT&T's.

Cel*Star Chief Operations Officer, Pierre Strasser said yesterday that the legal hurdles to facilitate interconnection should be overcome by next week.

Strasser said Cel*Star was not afraid of competition and would not sacrifice the development of a quality product by rushing its launch.

Lawyers for GT&T and Cel*Star have been in discussion on ending a months-long stand-off over interconnection which has seen the courts getting involved. The lawyers have agreed to a High Court order to allow interconnection to be proceeded with but this has not yet been issued. GT&T had originally agreed to interconnect with Cel*Star but an internal ownership row which erupted in Cel*Star raised doubts for GT&T on the repercussions if it went ahead with the deal.

Strasser yesterday reiterated the company's commitment to the local market. "You deserve and pay for quality and that is what Cel*Star intends to deliver - this includes the quality of calls, quality of the options and the quality of our customer service."

He said flexible pricing packages tailored to meet customers' lifestyle were being developed. This newspaper understands that there is the likelihood of Cel*Star customers being billed according to the amount of time they spend on the phone. Among the popular services to be offered is the much anticipated international roaming which will allow customers to use their cell phones overseas.

Strasser stopped short of announcing a date for the company's service launch but said the ceremony was an indication that the start-up time was drawing closer. However, this newspaper understands that Cel*Star's system is likely to be available to customers from September once all current works being undertaken including network installation and interconnection are completed and deemed fully operational.

Once its service is up and running Cel*Star expects to triple employment, currently at 30, as well as increase its investment to some US$38M over the next two years, Strasser said. Earlier, head of the Guyana Consumers Association Patrick Dial said the network switch commissioning was a stepping-stone to accelerated economic development and a regime of competition and competitiveness.

According to Dial, monopoly as is seen by the presence of GT&T alone in the market is an idea that breeds fear in the minds of consumers. He said the country has its fair amount of such fears.

President Bharrat Jagdeo and Prime Minister Samuel Hinds were on hand to observe the network switch commissioning and later toured the company's Kingston headquarters.

President Jagdeo said the government had long recognised that competition is good for development but unfortunately witnessed a policy that sought to stymie that process. He expressed the hope that this policy would end in the not too distant future to allow development of the sector, particularly that of Information Technology.

The Head of State also used the occasion to highlight what he said is a worrying development in court matters not been dealt with expeditiously.

He said several matters of national interest are languishing in the slow judicial process and cited one such case involving taxation which has been stuck for between six to eight months now following an injunction.

The President said all that is being asked for is for the matters to be dealt with speedily.

On Thursday GT&T demonstrated for the media the state of readiness of its GSM 900 service. It has not announced a possible launch date, but said it was currently focusing on testing the systems to ensure it met the requirements for seamless operation.