T&T on the verge of full telecommunications competition
(cellular and international), the Business Guardian started
a forum last week on this sector which is so important for
this countrys development.
This is a forumit is meant to be an exchange of ideasand
it is hoped that companies and individuals who are interested
in participating in T&Ts telecom future would contribute
to it as they see fit.
We also expect participation of the representative trade union,
the Telecommunications Authority, regional telecom bodies,
academics and, most importantly, the customers. Business
Advanced Technology Consulting
Internet Cafes and low-cost International Calling Centres
are springing up everywhere. Even TSTT is proclaiming lower
prices for international calls and for broadband Internet
access. Telecom deregulation must be in the air.
T&T is experiencing the same pre-deregulation benefits
as just about every other country that has trodden this path
including USA, UK, India, Ghana to name a few. As consumers,
were already gaining major quantifiable benefits from
the governments decision to deregulate.
History would appear to be repeating itself. But should we
assume that all the other benefits that accrued to those countries
after deregulation will automatically apply here as well?
And just what are those benefits?
The answer to the first question is a resounding NO! All deregulations
are not made equal and as the saying goes the devil
is in the detail.
There are any number of issues that could harm our ability
to gain maximum benefit. Of particular concern are twothe
mechanism for allocating scarce spectrum and the pricing of
interconnection with TSTTs network to the newcomers.
Related to the latter is the extent to which wireless operators
will be permitted to bypass TSTT altogether.
We have not been privy to the documents detailing the Governments
position on these and many other issues. Indeed, it isnt
clear that these issues have yet been decided. On these decisions
rest the promise of major benefits to be derived from our
telecoms deregulation process.
Lets assume for now that our decisions closely followed
those of other successful deregulators. Assume for a moment
that history repeats itself not just in the pre-deregulation
period but in its aftermath as well. What should we then expect?
Taking the UK as an example, what weve seen is a rapid
growth in the range of services on offer and a dramatic decrease
in cost. It is now the case that new technology is brought
to market much more rapidly than in the past.
Every month, there is an announcement about the roll-out of
picture messaging, higher speed Internet access, wi-fi and
all kinds of novel technologies. Not all of these will impact
on our daily lives but a significant number will.
The most dramatic impact, though, has been on cost. Dial-up
Internet access (very slow) used to cost about $400 per month.
The most recent broadband offers, at ten times the speed of
dial-up are now under $200 per month. Bundled packages are
also on offer. Heres a quote from a recent article in
The Independent: Telewest offers a package comprising
a 1MB broadband connection, a phone line and free local and
national calls at weekends, and 35 TV channels for £35
You can find the article at http://money.independent.co.uk/personal_finance/invest_save/story.jsp?story=630123
The evidence is clear. For any country that deregulates successfully,
the benefits to the public are staggering. We just have to
make the right decisions and deregulate in a way that leverages
the lessons of prior telecom deregulations.
The benefits dont end there though. Efficient, low-cost
telecom and Internet access will be a boon to a large number
of businesses and the national economy.
Ill give one small example: I know of a woman from Sweden
who works as a translator for various international bodies.
She loves Trinidad and would happily ply her trade from here.
Right now, she doesnt simply because Internet access
is unreliable and the cost of calling her clients is prohibitive
except from the call centres.
Resolve these two problems and we have the beginnings of an
industry that can generate significant foreign income.
Her story is not unique and indicative of the fact that deregulation
enables businesses to trade and work internationally much
more easily than at present.
Even fledgling exporters and hoteliers can more effectively
sell their wares when international calls are more reasonably
And let us not forget the Government. Much is made of the
loss of profit from its share of TSTT. Yet we should balance
that against the obvious benefits. I dont know what
their collective telecom bill for the year are like, but if
we see the expected 50 per cent or more decrease in charges,
then the saving to the Government and its various agencies
would be enormous.
Having said all of the above, perhaps the most exciting outcome
of deregulation is glorious uncertainty.
While we can reasonably predict most of the general outcomes
(and theyre overwhelmingly positive), we must remember
that our deregulation, if done properly, will leverage the
technology that is coming to market now and not that which
existed when the UK and others deregulated.
The upshot is that we should expect to see a host of technologies,
benefits and yes, challenges that didnt exist then.
I cant wait.
Advanced Technology Consulting is a newly formed, Trinidad-based
IT consultancy whose consultants are all internationally recognised
as leaders in IT. Theyve worked for G E Capital, National
Westminster Bank, Primus Telecommunications, Esprit Telecom,
CellNet, Vodaphone, AT&T, Royal Bank of Scotland, Citigroup
and other major corporations, mostly in the telecom and financial