Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bypass costs GT&T US$2M in revenue over eight months

Stabroek News July 26, 09
Over the last six to eight months, the Guyana Tele-phone and Telegraph company (GT&T) has lost appropriately US$2 million in revenue through international calls that have bypassed the company’s network, Chief Financial Officer Yog Mahadeo says.

In a recent interview with this newspaper, Mahadeo said this problem has been in existence for some time, but stated that there has been an increase in this activity over the last 18 months. He said this activity has not only robbed GT&T of substantial revenue but also the nation, since whenever GT&T loses revenue the country also suffers since lower taxes are paid.

What is telephone bypass?
According to the Chief Financial Officer “telephone bypass” refers to international calls that are made in and out of Guyana which do not go through the GT&T network. Currently GT&T has the licence for all international telephone traffic. Mahadeo explained that under normal circumstances, someone overseas who is making a call to Guyana would dial 592, which their local phone networks would then transfer to the GT&T switch in Guyana. At this end, Mahadeo explained, the calls are transferred to a GT&T landline or GT&T or Digicel mobile phone.

But he said that while outgoing calls which bypass the GT&T switch are an issue, it is not nearly as big a problem as the incoming calls that bypass the network. This, he explained, is predominantly an issue with calls coming from the USA and Canada.

Mahadeo said bypass occurs because of some degree of selfishness by the giant phone companies in the USA and Canada, who do not care about the revenue lost by GT&T. He said that these large companies may give phone minutes to an illegitimate bottom-house operator in North America. Calls can then be made to Guyana via these illegal operators. According to him, this bottom-house operator instead of sending the call through the GT&T network routes it directly to another illegal bottom-house operator in Guyana. Such an operator, he explained, has a bank of SIM cards which these operators use to send these calls out directly to a telephone numbers. Since these individuals do not have the capacity of the GT&T network they are forced to compress the voice and this results in telephone calls of “horrible quality”. Mahadeo said that when this happens, GT&T is unfairly blamed for the poor quality of these calls which do not pass through its network. He said that another sign that an international call has bypassed the local network is when a telephone user receives an international call which bears a local cell phone number.

Although bypass is common in other territories in the region, Mahadeo said that he was convinced that Guyana was the territory most badly hit by this phenomenon. He made this assessment was based on the significant number of Guyanese who reside in North America, many of whom contact relatives in Guyana frequently.

In an effort to counteract the problem of bypass, Mahadeo said, the ‘Call Home Guyana’ card was launched. This, he said, is a legitimate and cheaper means by which persons overseas can call Guyana. He also said that good quality calls are also assured if these cards are used.

Additionally, Mahadeo said that the company has approached the government for assistance. Further, the local phone company has contacted US and Canada-based telephone companies and according to him, these companies are trying to address the problem as well.

However, the Chief Financial Officer emphasised that the citizens are essential in curbing the problem of bypass. He urged anyone who receives an international call from a local cell phone number, to report it to the phone company. Further, if a caller receives an overseas call of poor quality, this should be reported as well.

Meanwhile, Mahadeo said that so far whenever the company discovers illegal operators it takes appropriate actions against them. However, he said that it was not always easy to find these persons. The Chief Financial Officer emphasised that the company was very serious in addressing the problem even though certain elements of control the issue was out of its hands.
– customers urged to report irregularities