Thursday 5 August 2021

Guyana still has plenty of Fake 4G

The only English-speaking nation in South America, Guyana has a small population which traditionally had one of the lowest GDP rates in the region. Although GDP growth had been steady in recent years, the sale of oil from offshore reserves which started in February 2020 promises to completely transform the economy. With good stewardship, oil revenue has the potential to lead to a major overhaul of the country’s infrastructure, including the aging telecom networks.

The incumbent telco Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T, rebranded as GTT in late 2015) is controlled by the US-based Atlantic Tele-Network (ATN). The company competes with Digicel in the mobile market but retains a monopoly over fixed-line services. Although GTT’s fixed-line monopoly was renewed for 20 years in December 2010 it drew to a close following the passing of the 2016 Telecommunications Act. However, since 2017 there have been delays in negotiations between the government and GTT relating to the terms of the market liberalisation and so the monopoly has been retained in practice: GTT still claims that it enjoys a monopoly on international voice and data services until 2030. Digicel is expected to launch competing services in the fixed-line market as soon as it is able to do so. In 2019 the government signed an MoU with ATN regarding licensing terms and the benefits expected to develop from market liberalisation. However, relations between the company and government are fraught, not least in relation to tax arears amounting to some $44 million.

In the mobile sector GTT’s mobile unit Cellink competes with Digicel Guyana. Both operate GSM/GPRS networks while Cellink in mid-2017 also launched a limited LTE service.

2G is on GSM 900 MHz. 3G/HSPA+ has started on 850 MHz in May 2016, but it's branded as "4G" by both operators. Check that your phone supports 3G on 850 MHz or you'll be limited to EDGE speeds. Real 4G/LTE has been started in March 2017 by GTT+ in Essequibo so far only to be spread to more towns later on 700 MHz (band 28).

The Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) is the incumbent provider in the country. Digicel arrived in 2006 as second provider for much needed competition in the mobile sector. In 2016 the government decided to break up this duopoly and may admit more players soon.

In 2018 the Suriname government shut down what it claims was an illegal microwave link providing cross-border communications between Digicel Suriname and Digicel Guyana. The switch-off led to widespread disruption of data services to Digicel’s subscribers in Guyana. Guyanese fixed line incumbent Guyana Telegraph and Telephone Company (GTT) retains a monopoly on international voice and data transmission despite a near decade-long effort by the Guyanese government to negotiate and end exclusivity but has previously accused its cellular rival of illegally bypassing its network.

Mobile coverage is present only along the coast and in some river valleys up to Linden and Bartica. Most inland areas are not covered by the networks and a satellite telephone is required. Speeds are reasonable according to OpenSignal on 3G with 1-2 Mbit/s, but latency is rather high.

The Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) is the incumbent provider in the country. The US-owned company is the only landline operator, the biggest internet provider, has still a monopoly on international lines and operates the only fibre optic submarine cables.

It's mobile network was rebranded from Cellink plus to GTT+ in 2015. They have a slightly better mobile coverage compared with Digicel.

2G is on GSM 900 MHz. 3G/HSPA+ has started on 850 MHz in May 2016. It's branded as "4G". 4G/LTE has started on 700 MHz (band 28) in some major towns. In 2019 Georgetown, Great Diamond, Lusignan, Rosignol, Blairmont and New Amsterdam are covered by 4G/LTE.

Digicel Guyana is part of the international Digicel Group. They started in 2006 as second provider and are not fully on par with GTT yet.

2G is on GSM 900 Mhz. 3G/HSPA+ has started on 850 MHz in May 2016. It's branded as "4G". There is no real 4G/LTE yet with Digicel.

The Telecommunications Agency of Guyana has confirmed plans to issue three 700MHz spectrum licences this month.

As reported by Guyana’s Official Gazette, GTT (Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company) will receive permits for the blocks covering 708MHz-718MHz/763MHz-773MHz, E-Networks will be granted the 718MHz-738MHz/773MHz-793MHz holding, and U-Mobile (which uses the Digicel brand) will receive the 738MHz-748MHz/793MHz-803MHz blocks.

The licence issue follows an extensive overhaul of regulatory frameworks in Guyana’s telecoms sector, which was implemented in October 2020. This was the result of more than a decade of reform attempts.

Many reforms were implemented, including regulations surrounding spectrum management and frequency authorisation for individual operators. The latter of these will require amendment once the new licences are issued.

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