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Leogane, Haiti--On April 29th, 2010, the Vietnamese Telecom (Viettel) officially became the majority owner of the Haitian national telecommunication company (TELECO). Viettel is a state-owned company. The transaction took place in Port-au-prince under the leadership of Viettel representatives and the governor of the National Bank (BRH) Charles Castel; other dignitaries present were General Director of the council for modernization of public enterprises (CMEP) Yves Bastien and Michel Presume former director of TELECO.
This accord gave Viettel 60% of all shares of Teleco. The new company will be operated under a new name, NATCOM. The transaction cost Viettel approximately 59 million dollars.
The goal is to modernize NATCOM into a premiere telecommunication company and able to offer services comparable to big telecom companies worldwide. Even before the transaction was finalized, Viettel deployed some engineers to evaluate the impact of the earthquake on the fiber optics network.
It has been almost a year since the transaction took place, and NatCom is only now starting to provide its services to the public in some specific areas, such as Delmas and Turgeau.
There are three mobile companies in the country; Digicel has approximately 66% of the market share, whereas Voila has about 32% and Haitel with 2%. During an interview with the director of KONATEL, Marcel Monteigne, he declared that NatCom should be fully functional very soon.
NatCom has started the process of installing some of the needed infrastructure to be operational. NatCom has sub-contracted EGT (Enterprise General Travaille). Engineer Pierre Jean Wilver of EGT who is currently working on Route Lamitye told us that NatCom is getting ready to cover every corner of the country. The fiber optics cable, which will facilitate better internet connection and could even be used for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), has already been installed at Croix-des-Bouquets, and 16 other areas surrounding Port-au-Prince. For now, they are working in the Southeast region, from Kafou Kolas to Jacmel and from Jacmel to Marigot and the goal is to end up in Kenskoff. EGT should have been done with this work since February 14th, but the engineer has promised to get it done sometime this month.
NatCom is not only aiming at providing fixed phone services, but to also enter the mobile phone market. They plan to offer free calling between NatCom customers in the same region, that is to say a NatCom customer in Port-au-Prince will be able to call another NatCom customer in any city within the western department for free. Inter-departmental calls will cost about 1.45 gourdes per minute, current rate from major carriers is now at 5 gourdes per minute, and there’s a plan to offer a monthly subscription for internet services at a much lower rate than it is today. An internet subscription will come with an additional 250 channels of cable TV.
Spending projections for the two biggest telecommunication companies in Haiti:
A) Comcel (Voila) projected to spend 45 million dollars in the next few months.
B) Digicel is about to spend more than 100 million dollars.
The spending will be done to improve current infrastructure and also meet the obvious challenge posed by NatCom entering the market. All these will benefit the consumers—better services at better prices.
$1 = 40 Gourdes
Enel Beauliere and Ilio Durandis contributed to this story.