St. John’s Antigua- A “quality assurance unit” has been established to oversee the transition from a market with a single legal provider of international direct dial telephone service (IDD) to one with open competition.
Minister of Telecommunications Dr Edmond Mansoor announced the existence of the unit yesterday while, along with the four major telecoms providers, ushering in the new era.
Up to midnight Thursday, Cable & Wireless had held a 25-year monopoly license to provide overseas calls to and from fixed lines and mobile phones. The exclusive arrangement was granted to ensure that the company could gain acceptable returns on the investment it undertook to bring to Antigua and Barbuda what was the modern era of the 1980s. Before IDD, wire-based communication needed to be booked at least a day in advance and be facilitated only at one of Cable & Wireless’ two offices.
Now another transition is underway, and yesterday during the brief ceremony at which today’s modern telecoms providers agreed to new basic rules of the game, Dr Mansoor sought to allay possible fear of the unknown by saying the quality assurance unit will monitor any decrease in service quality.
“For the next 90 days, the ministry of telecommunications will investigate any and all issues related to what may be perceived to be poor quality assurance issues from any of the telecommunications operators in Antigua and Barbuda,” he said.
He also said that he expected the opened market will lead to lower rates as Antigua Wireless Ventures Limited, trading as Digicel, Cable & Wireless Antigua and Barbuda Limited, trading as LIME, Antigua Computer Technology Limited, and the Antigua Public Utilities Authority vie for customer loyalty.
IDD was the last communications area in which players couldn’t freely compete. Antigua and Barbuda already had open competition for Internet service and local cellular and fixed line calls. However, because of the option of long distance calls via the Internet, Cable & Wireless’ monopoly had gotten progressively less valuable.