Digicel launch stirs battle
-- President welcomes new company
By Mark Ramotar
February 15, 2007
PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday lauded the entrance into the Guyanese market by Digicel, saying this has effectively introduced much-needed competition in the sector, something his government has been vigorously pushing for over the past few years.
Digicel, the fastest growing telecommunications operator in the Caribbean, yesterday officially opened its doors in Guyana, offering a wide range of brand new handsets, innovative services, a state-of-the-art network and plugging superior customer care.
“We have been working towards the introduction of competition in the telecommunications sector (and) I am very pleased with the competition that this (Digicel launch) brings,” President Jagdeo told the Guyana Chronicle in an invited comment.
“I think that the consumers are going to benefit tremendously from this competition. Already we see the rates coming down and we are going to see the price for the instruments (phones) falling…so I think this is good for the country.”
“We are very pleased with the launch; this has vindicated our position…and the consumers are the ones that will benefit,” the President added.
The highly anticipated arrival of Digicel was celebrated at its ‘flagship’ outlet at City Mall on Regent and Camp Streets which opened its doors yesterday to thousands of eager and excited Guyanese, along with 49 other Digicel stores located around Guyana.
Surrounded by a packed crowd of eager shoppers, the Digicel red ribbon was cut as Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, and renowned former West Indies cricketer Lance Gibbs, welcomed Digicel to Guyana, before hordes of people rushed inside to be among the first to purchase a brand new handset from the Digicel range.
There were long queues in front all the Digicel outlets in the city yesterday, as Guyanese from all walks of life tried to get a ‘first-hand’ feel and look at what the new and much-hyped-up company had to offer on the market.
The inevitable competition (or as some say, war) also erupted in the city yesterday as Digicel’s rival, Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T), had scores of persons sporting its blue ‘Cellink plus’ T-shirts, strategically placed around the Digicel outlets and distributing flyers and services the company has on offer at unbelievable and even ‘giveaway’ prices.
This led to thousands converging at various locations countrywide to take advantage of offers made available by the two competitors.
Some from the GT&T camp commented that the long lines at the Digicel outlets comprised mainly persons wanting tickets to get into the gala concert at the National Park in Georgetown last night that featured Grammy-nominated star, Akon, and others. Customers were given a free ticket to the concert with every purchase they made at the Digicel outlets.
“If we decide to bring Michael Jackson or Beyonce tomorrow, them same people you see in that line there (Digicel) will be lining up in front of GT&T office also wanting to come to our show…so it’s not really Digicel, its Akon,” commented one young woman sporting the blue GT&T Cellink plus T-Shirts as she handed out flyers in front of the City Mall.
A few feet away, one person in the Digicel line waiting her turn to get into the new outlet at City Mall, said GT&T has finally awoken to what competition is all about, but contended that it’s too late now since Digicel has “already painted the town red” with its grand arrival and promise of a better service and unbeatable prices.
Reaching new standards in quality and service in the Guyanese retail sector, the 50 Digicel stores have been outfitted to the highest standard, with comfortable and spacious settings and fresh modern fixtures displaying Digicel’s range of brand new handsets, such as the Motorola F3, Nokia 110 and Konka E100, which start as low as $2,900 each.
Every customer who purchased a handset in a Digicel store yesterday received a free gift, in addition to $500 credit to top-up their mobile phones.
Digicel CEO, Mr. Tim Bahrani told this newspaper that the response by the Guyanese people to Digicel’s launching here yesterday was “simply amazing”.
He, however, hastened to add that “this is the 22nd or 23rd time that Digicel has done this in a country and the response has always been like this…but I think after Haiti which had the biggest response to date, this here in Guyana is not far behind Haiti.”
The reason for this huge response, he posited, is because Digicel comes in on the market with good values which is “one of the things that customers are frustrated about in that that they haven’t had the value for money or good services that they expect or deserve.”
“It’s been an exciting few months getting ready to launch Digicel in Guyana and I’m delighted that we are opening 50 Digicel stores today to such a fantastic response from the people of Guyana. We have a host of exciting offers and brand new handsets which will transform how people communicate and greatly improve their mobile experience.”
Prominent Georgetown businessman and proprietor of the Digicel outlet at the City Mall, Mr. Edward Boyer, in an invited comment, said he welcomed the introduction of Digicel on the local telecommunications market, since this will raise the level of competition and ultimately customer satisfaction.
“I feel that obviously in the telecommunications industry, we need to be more advanced to catch up with the rest of the world and competition builds business…so if this is the way to go and if you have competition, then the customers will ultimately benefit and I am all for the benefit of the customer,” Boyer said.
“At the end of the day, communication and the IT (Information Technology) progress that this country has to make over the next five to ten years, is going to be a driving force in terms of our employment and progress in all sectors of social and economic life.”
And speaking at yesterday’s opening ceremony at the Digicel ‘flagship’ outlet at City Mall, Prime Minister Hinds said the government is scheduled to re-engage GT&T in discussions for the full liberalisation of the telecommunications sector.
The Prime Minister, who holds the portfolio for telecommunications, said the government held several unsuccessful negotiations with Atlantic Tele-Network, GT&T’s parent company, relating to its hold on identified communication services.
Previous discussions between stakeholders led to the entry of Digicel’s predecessor, Celstar which commenced service in Guyana in December 2004.
Digicel was granted a licence to operate in Guyana during August 2006. The company subsequently entered into discussions with Celstar Guyana, which led to the purchase of Celstar’s assets.