BTA Ready for Service-Neutral Licensing in Botswana

Telecoms

Telcomms regulator, the Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) has announced that it is ready to receive applications for service neutral licences after a policy sanction last year. Headed by Thari Pheko, BTA says in a statement that it is ready to receive applications under the new licensing framework. The new licensing follows the announcement of further liberalisation of the telecommunications market issued by the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, last year.

The BTA statement reveals that in terms of the new structure, the existing three telecommunications operators - Mascom Wireless Botswana (Pty) Ltd, Orange Botswana (Pty) Ltd and Botswana Telecommunication Corporation (BTC) - have the option to apply for new Public Telecommunication Operator (PTO) licences. PTO will allow them to offer, among others, mobile telephony, fixed telephony and Internet services under one licence.

"However, should these operators choose not to apply for the new PTO licence, they will continue to operate as either mobile or fixed telephone providers until their current licences expire," the BTA statement says.

On the other hand, existing Internet Service Providers and Data Service Providers may apply for the new Value-Added Network Service (VANS) licence or choose to remain operating under their current licences. The VANS licence will allow the licensees to provide a whole host of innovative services, including e-mail services, Internet browsing as well as the use of the long-awaited Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Meanwhile, the private network licensees on the other hand will continue to operate as stand-alone entities but will have revised terms and conditions which shall not be substantially different from their existing ones.

The move would be good news for BTC, which is currently a landline monopoly that has expressed desire to go mobile. Vincent Seretse, the BTC chief executive officer last year announced that the corporation had already applied for a neutral licence so they could operate as a mobile operator. Analysts believe that BTC obtaining a mobile licence will be the prelude to the long-awaited privatisation.

Mmegi/The Reporter