Technology expert wants more action to enable telecoms growth

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By Elesha George

Yves Ephraim, the managing director of Pegasus Technologies and a leader in telecommunications in Antigua and Barbuda, wants to see concrete action finally taken to improve the telecommunications industry within the state.

Speaking at the opening of the 18th regional Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) meeting at Jolly Beach, on Wednesday September 24, 2019, Ephraim raised a number of issues with the local telecoms infrastructure, including the monopoly that the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) enjoys over landline services, the high cost for bandwidth compared to other islands and the delay in putting legislation in place to guide the industry.

Ephraim believes the absence of proper guidelines is to be blamed on the lack of leadership of successive governments, who have over the years failed to look at the “big picture”.

“We’ve seen the movement from one government administration that has, in a sense, created inconsistencies in terms of policies. From my perspective, what you see is that under one administration a favoured carrier gets concession and then the other one flips to another favourite one and then another administration flips to a favourite one and I think the time has come for the government to look at the big picture and try to really create a kind of cooperative environment where everybody can win and not some people losing at the expense of others.”

Ephraim said the rules need to be made clear and public, adding that: “Over 15 years now we’ve been talking about new legislation. We’ve had a draft and it’s been going back and forth, back and forth, and from one administration to the next administration nothing seems to happen and so at the moment the rules are uncertain about how you’re gonna play in this arena. I think we need to get some clarity so that people know exactly what those rules are and it’s not left up to the whim of an official.”

The engineer also spoke on the apparent lack of opportunity for local Internet service providers (ISP), making reference to the public disagreement among state utility provider APUA, Irish telecoms company Digicel and British telecoms company Flow, over the sharing of spectrum.

“There’s a need from the regulator side to not focus on those current players but to leave room for others to enter into that space as well, and particularly indigenous peoples. I’ve found that other than the government entities, other than government-owned entities and the favoured international entities that are there, there’s really no discussion or way made for indigenous people to kind of get into that space and participate as well.

“I think instead of trying to think of all the possible parameters and limit individuals, I think we should leave it open and see what happens,” he added.

Ephraim is encouraging the government to consider technology as an enabler and in doing so identify economic activities that can engender and foster growth in the industry.

He explained that “it’s no longer about what’s happening inside Antigua, it’s about the opportunities that this technology allows us to have by tapping into larger markets. Don’t worry about the technology but look at the businesses it enables and how we can become producers of content, producers of services that the world would really run to our doors to get and that would in turn create the economic activity that we once had before with the gaming industry.”

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