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Digicel & CEO to face criminal charges for unauthorized spectrum use

Oct 09, 2021 News, Source - Kaieteur News Online - https://www.kaieteurnewsonline...orized-spectrum-use/

Kaieteur News – Come October 22, several criminal charges will be read to Digicel Guyana and its Chief Executive Officer, Gregory Dean for the unauthorized use of spectrum and the failure to comply with notices to cease such acts. Filing the said charges was Prime Minister with responsibility for the Telecommunications Sector, Mark Phillips.

Digicel Guyana CEO, Gregory Dean

In court documents seen by Kaieteur News, it was noted that Dean, between September 25, 2021 and October 1, 2021, knowingly authorized, permitted or acquiesced in the company’s failure to comply with directions issued under the Telecommunications Act and Regulations to cease unauthorized usage within 24 hours of the said notice.

The court documents further state that between December 1, 2020 and October 4, 2021, Digicel Guyana made use of Spectrum in the 1800MHz band without having proper authorization. During the period November 11, 2020 and October 1, 2021 the telecommunications giant made use of Spectrum in the 700MHz band without the requisite permit.

The particulars of the case also note that U-Mobile [Cellular) Inc., a body corporate, also operating as Digicel Guyana between September 25, 2021 and October 1, 2021 in the Georgetown Magisterial District, being served with a Notice from the Telecommunication Agency, dated September 23, 2021, containing a direction to cease within twenty-four hours of the said Notice, the unauthorized usage of Spectrum in the 700MHz band, failed to comply with that direction within the specified twenty-four hour period.

Prime Minister, Mark Phillips

The defendant between June 5, 2021 and October 1, being served with a Notice from the Telecommunication Agency, dated May 28 2021, containing a direction to cease within seven days of the said Notice, the unauthorized usage of Spectrum in the 700MHz band, also failed to comply with that direction within the specified seven day period. The company also failed to comply with a similar notice to cease the unauthorized use of the Spectrum in the 1800MHz band.

Late last month, Kaieteur News was the first to report that U-Mobile Inc. which trades as Digicel, has recently come under scrutiny for occupying additional spectrum without the requisite authorizations, even before the Government could review the new frequency band.

Digicel has also approached the courts seeking to halt the Government’s spectrum issue and if successful, could delay the deployment of services by competing carriers, which would consequently impact the access of the public to these services. In its defense, Digicel claims to have a legitimate expectation to the unauthorized use of spectrum.

Kaieteur News had reported however that this approach appears to be thwarting the process and the benefits of liberalisation to consumers.

GTT has indicated that it will be deploying a 4.5 G Network and has already been legally granted spectrum to begin this process. However, GTT has already written to the Telecommunications Agency, stating that it will expeditiously transition to the assigned spectrum, but may be prevented from doing so because of unauthorized use in one of its spectrum bands.

It therefore asked the Telecommunications Agency and the Ministry, to take the necessary steps at enforcing the law to prevent any such unlawful use. E-Networks has also written to the Agency about interference in its licenced band, which is causing delays in its countrywide expansion.

This unauthorised use of spectrum is not the first time Digicel has been accused of bypassing the legal process. In March 2017, GTT alleged that Digicel was facilitating an “illegal, unlicenced trans-border link between Guyana and Suriname,” an operation which Digicel has acknowledged on several occasions, and which amounted to “remarkable arrogance and disregard for the rule of law in Guyana” according to GTT.

In 2017, GTT claimed that Digicel has never provided any specific information in relation to this illegal bypass activity, which it believed deprived the national coffers of billions of dollars in tax payments. To date, Digicel has not made public whether it made any payment of the tax assessments alleged by GTT.

Similar to the present case, GTT expressed its frustration that Digicel avoided any responsibility for its illegal activities but instead, “[made] excuses or [launched] new and unfounded claims that are meant to distract the public and the media.”

Moreover, the operation of the bypass also entailed the use of valuable spectrum by Digicel, which GTT had claimed was “simply taken as its own, without payment.” The company believed that Guyanese had “a right to know whether this spectrum has, in fact, been stolen by Digicel.”

Further revelations have also indicated that Digicel has not paid its licence fees for at least five years, an amount estimated to surpass GY$1 billion dollars. The Telecommunications Agency has recently billed Digicel for these outstanding fees, requesting that they be paid within thirty (30) days.