By Clint Chan Tack
IRISH TELECOMMUNICATIONS giant Digicel yesterday said its entire cellular network in Trinidad and Tobago would be fully operational within 12 to 18 months, but hinted that it could be able to provide cellular phone services to the population before Christmas.
Digicel declined to say if local cellular phone prices would drop now that it has entered TT's telecommunications sector, but its entry into other telecom markets in the region has resulted in a drop in cellular phone prices in those jurisdictions.
On Wednesday, Digicel and local telecommunications outfit Laqtel were awarded US$25 million licences (US$19 million for Digicel, US$9 million for Laqtel) by the Telecommunications Authority of TT (TATT) which effectively ended TSTT's 26-year-monopoly of the local telecommunications sector. TATT chairman Dr Ralph Henry said the authority would make recommendations next week to Public Administration and Information Minister Dr Lenny Saith that concessions be given to Digicel and Laqtel. Dr Saith will take these concessions to Cabinet for approval, and both companies will have to negotiate interconnection agreements with TSTT.
Addressing a news conference at Home Construction Ltd's Long Circular Mall offices in St James yesterday, Digicel TT CEO Sinead O'Marcaigh said Digicel plans to be fully operational within a 12 to 18 month period. She explained that this meant that its mobile phone service should be operational either before Christmas 2005 (best case scenario) or by the second quarter of 2006 (worst case scenario).
O'Marcaigh declined comment on rumours of an imminent price war between Digicel and TSTT for control of the cellular market, saying only that Digicel will be "very competitive" in the range of services that it plans to offer to the people of TT, and that those services will be up to world standards.
TSTT officials also dismissed price war rumours with Digicel, saying price was not the only factor influencing competitiveness in the telecom market and TSTT was prepared to deal with the sector's liberalisation.
O'Marcaigh said TT was one of the region's most lucrative telecom markets, reports of crime in TT never influenced Digicel's decision to do business here and Digicel would do its part to help Government achieve its Vision 2020 objectives to build a knowledge-based society in TT through its participation in the local telecommunications sector.
She echoed Digicel chairman Denis O'Brien's praise for Government's decision to liberalise TT's telecom market, saying this was vital if TT was to successfully pursue initiatives such as establishing Port-of-Spain as the headquarters of the Free Trade Areas of the Americas Secretariat.
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