Digicel taps international gateway
Repairs to Americas 11 cable to start Monday
Stabroek News
May 12, 2007

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Digicel yesterday announced that it is now using its Earth Station to route international calls and GT&T says that a cable ship will arrive on Monday off French Guiana to repair damage to the Americas 11 cable following which full service is expected to resume in around five days.

The move by Digicel follows a directive from Prime Minister Samuel Hinds on Wednesday that granted interim permission to the cell phone company to utilize its Earth Station to originate and terminate international traffic on its network until international communications is fully restored via the Americas 11 cable. Prior to this, GT&T had held the monopoly. On Sunday damage to the Americas 11 cable resulted in disruption in international voice, data and internet services, which continued into this week.

Digicel in a press release yesterday said that "Digicel customers are now making crystal clear international calls on the Digicel network."

The release said that after the authorization and directive was issued by the Prime Minister the company moved to quickly route international calls through its facilities, to alleviate the disruption to Guyana and its citizens.

"Digicel is pleased that it has been able to ease the disruption to international communications services at this critical time and our dedicated team has worked quickly and tirelessly to meet the directive," according to Digicel Chief Executive Officer Tim Bahrani.

In the press release he added that "In times of need, it is important that we all work together and put the interests of the people of Guyana first and foremost."

In its press release GT&T said that the Cable Ship with engineers and equipment aboard is now on its way to French Guiana to effect repairs to the damaged Americas 11 cable.

According to GT&T, the ship had travelled to St. Croix, US Virgin Islands to collect all the equipment that might be required for the type of damage sustained by the submarine cable, and is proceeding to the location 15 kilometres off the eastern shore of French Guiana.

This ship is scheduled to arrive at the offshore location on Monday and repair work will begin towards the restoration of service.

The release said that customers in Suriname are also experiencing similar disruption in internet and in international data and voice services as a result of the fault which developed on Sunday morning on the cable.

GT&T in the release said that it was later confirmed that the cable had been squashed and the power supply along it had been disrupted.

"GT&T has since made arrangements to bring some relief to customers, acquiring, at significant cost, additional redundant satellite facilities from Intelsat, 45 Mgbt Internet Service and additional voice circuits to the U.S. and the Caribbean," said the GT&T release.

In the meanwhile, Stabroek News spoke with internet service providers who have said that the damage to the Americas 11 cable has negatively affected their business.

Telsnet Inc., at 95 Hadfield Street is one service provider which is receiving numerous calls from customers inquiring when their internet services will be operational.

Telsnet's Sahadeo Seeram said yesterday afternoon that GT&T on Tuesday had a back-up system in place, but on Thursday afternoon from 6 pm the business was no longer able to access internet services from this back-up system. Access through the back-up system was also said to be slow and around 50% capacity, when compared to the cable.

Telsnet reported that it has operated this week at less than 50% of its capacity.

In Linden, internet café Linden Online at 62 Republic Avenue was unable to access the internet as of yesterday afternoon. They too confirmed that the interim system capacity was at 50%.

GuySeek.com Internet Café & Business Centres at Harbour Bridge Mall on the East Bank was using its wireless internet service to give customers access to the internet, since internet access could not be had through GT&T's DSL service.

A staffer at the café said that although the internet was not accessible through the DSL, internet service is still being offered through its wireless connectivity. At this café the back-up system put in place on Tuesday by GT&T was not accessible from Thursday afternoon.

Efforts to gain further information from GT&T on this proved futile yesterday.

GT&T has also signalled its intention to challenge the decision by Prime Minister Hinds to allow Digicel to utilize its earth station to originate and terminate international traffic on its network.