Guyanese cellcos Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) and Digicel Guyana have both activated their respective high speed mobile broadband networks after receiving conditional licences and additional spectrum. Although the two new networks are being marketed by the cellcos as ‘4G’, the systems utilise HSPA+, a 3G evolution or ‘3.5G’ technology. The concessions were allocated ahead of the anticipated introduction of a new Telecommunications Bill later this month in order to allow GTT and Digicel to launch the services in time for the 50th anniversary of Guyana’s independence. The details of the new legislation have not yet been made public, but the Bill is widely expected to cover the liberalisation of the sector. Indeed, Demerara Airwaves quotes Digicel Guyana’s CEO Kevin Kelly as saying that the allocation of the licences: ‘is the first step [towards] liberalisation… If liberalisation happens we’d have to convert every single tower to 4G – that would probably cost over USD30 million to USD40 million.’ Digicel has launched the new 3.5G service at around 100 sites across the country and is planning to expand that footprint over the coming weeks.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, prolonged delays to the introduction of the new Telecommunications Bill – the legislation has been in the works since 2011 – has, in turn, held up the introduction of 3G and 4G services. Consequently, until now Guyana was one of fewer than ten nations worldwide that had not introduced either technology, alongside Tuvalu, Eritrea, Palestinian Territory, St Pierre & Miquelon and Wallis & Fortuna.