Zimbabwe: Econet Speaks Out On Sweden SMS mailing sent to Zanu-PF Congress delegates
Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has said that it took the highly unusual step last week Thursday terminating its interconnection with a major Swedish telecoms operator after it was established that SMS messages on the just-ended Zanu-PF congress were being maliciously broadcast from that country into Zimbabwe.
An Econet spokesperson said: "We received complaints to the effect that unsolicited messages were being received by some of our customers. We investigated and discovered that the messages were being sent from delegates at the conference, to a messaging centre in Sweden, which then transmitted them, as bulk SMS messages to our customers using a computer that could send to our number range”.
"This was not only being directed to Econet, but also to other operators, but because we are the largest operator we received the majority of the messages. As the SMS messages were coming to us from Sweden through normal SMS channels, we asked the operator concerned to shut down the transmissions as they were in violation of interconnection agreements and they agreed to do so," said the spokesperson.
He said it had co-operated fully with the authorities who are trying to establish the persons who sent the SMS messages, as well as those who paid for them in Sweden.
"The persons who were sending messages to Sweden need to appreciate that it is unlawful in Zimbabwe. We also understand that the manner they did it may also have contravened Swedish law."
Econet has advised that it is working on installing software that could immediately track and shutdown unauthorised bulk SMS broadcasts in future. "We are installing software that will identify and block, immediately, any bulk sms broadcasts, which we have not authorised in advance." Econet uses similar software to block, what is known as "re-filing", a practice in which illegal operators send bulk voice traffic.
Defending the decision to block such bulk SMS transmissions, the spokesperson said:
"There is no operator anywhere in the world, who allows an outside party to bombard its customers with sms messages, irrespective of the contents of the sms. It does not happen in Britain, or America, or Sweden. It is illegal, and an abuse of the system."