Mobile phone service provider, Mascom has refuted allegations that it is trying to lure Orange customers by giving misleading information about its rival. Company spokesperson, Odirile Motlhale said Mascom has not been involved in any unlawful business practice concerning Orange's existence in order to lure their customers and increase its subscription base. He was responding to a press release published in local newspapers purported to have targeted Orange subscribers. The statement indicated that, "a certain company offering mobile services is providing and/or is involved in the perpetuation of misleading information about the long-term existence of Orange in Botswana".

Kago Mmopi, Orange Botswana Marketing Manager confirmed that indeed a company offering mobile services is providing such misleading information in order to lure Orange subscribers to switch subscription to the company in question. However, Motlhale said that if the alleged mobile operator that Orange is referring to happens to be Mascom, then they would have to wait to hear from their regulator which is Botswana Telecommunications Authority, (BTA).

"Unfortunately, I cannot answer a press release which is not specific like that one and we will all hear from the regulators if it does concern us," an unfazed Motlhale said. According to Mmopi, Orange subscribers have been asked to surrender their SIM cards with promises of receiving a SIM card from another mobile service provider at no cost.

Only these two companies currently operate the mobile service provision in Botswana. Despite this fact, Mmopi vehemently refused to reveal the name of the mobile operator and said that it could be the vendors, who are selling scratch cards, SIM cards and phones on behalf of their competitor, who are trying to lure the subscribers. The press statement further states in part: "Be advised that appropriate action has been initiated with the regulatory body to protect our most valuable asset, you".

Mmopi explained that they have lodged a complaint with BTA and expect a response shortly. For his part, BTA spokesperson, Aaron Nyelesi was in the dark when asked about the issue and said he was not aware of a complaint lodged by Orange.

Nyelesi said that he also learnt about Orange's complaints from the media and would have to check with the other BTA departments to find out if they had received a letter from them. Statistically, Mascom continues to be the leading service mobile provider, having grown by over 120 percent since December 2001. Its customer base has increased from 219,000 subscribers to an expected 600,000 by the end of 2006. Mascom controls 70 percent of the mobile service share. With an investment portfolio of over P420 million, with more than 20 base stations using 1800 MHz, Mascom has grown over three folds since 2001.

Mmegi/The Reporter

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