Digicel to invest US$60M
Stabroek News
November 3, 2006

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Having acquired Cel*Star's telecommunications licence, mobile phone company Digicel is planning to invest at least US$60M on its business here.

Speaking at a press conference held at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel yesterday, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Digicel Group, Colm Delves said: "We will ensure that the best levels of customer care are introduced. We will bring the best coverage."

He stated too that the Ireland-based company will invest over US$60M to expand the network and acquire new customers in Guyana, the company's 22nd market and the fifth largest in the hemisphere.

Now that the company has its licence, Delves said, it would commence negotiations with the Government of Guyana to have the terms of its licence amended and also to have the Public Utilities Commission's (PUC) rate-setting regime changed.

He said that this is required if there is to be a level playing field, but noted that the company welcomes competition, which he said is good for business. "We are used to dealing with monopolies," he said, citing examples of other countries entered. "We are not concerned with what GT&T is doing but on executing our business plan," he said.

Delves said that Sony Ericsson is Digicel's networking partner and added that the company has over 200 global partners for international roaming. Digicel promises new services and products not seen before in Guyana, including Blackberry, which is based on the GRPS (General Radio Packet System) platform and GPS (Global Positioning System) services.

Delves is of the view that though the cellular penetration is 22 percent, there is no reason why it cannot be as high as 80 or 90 percent. He is confident that with quality services and customer care, subscribers will be drawn to Digicel which should see more than 50 percent penetration in a matter of months.

He said that Digicel's rates will be competitive and mentioned that with the introduction of the company's services in other Caribbean nations, rates for cellular communication have fallen.

Because of the purchase of Cel*Star at a cost that is still closely guarded by Digicel, the company would no longer need to pursue an independent licence, a major milestone in the company's introduction to a new territory.

In terms of improvements and new services, Delves said that Guyana would see these very soon. But he noted that Blackberry services will not come on stream early next year.

Digicel hopes to expand the employee base at Cel*Star with a view to building its business and having a cadre of trained professionals. Delves said that the company would not be sending home any of the Cel*Star employees because of the buyout but will be adding to the workforce another 50 percent of the present 119 employees.

Delves projected that after 18 months in operation the company should see interest-free and tax-free earnings on the US$60M invested. The company would be re-branding U Mobile to Digicel when the desired level of development is reached and this would be sometime next year, Delves said.

Digicel's Country Manager - Guyana, Tim Bahrani, said that as country manager it is his job to enhance the skills of the Guyanese employees and further build the team. According to Bahrani, the Cel*Star employees already have some desired skills and qualities and he hopes to build on this. He said that he considers himself the team leader and he hopes to focus on the transfer of skills. He also mentioned that employees from Guyana will benefit from overseas postings at other Digicel locations.