Uganda: MTN, Regulator Given 30 Days by High Court to agree on termination tariffs

Telecoms

The High Court has given MTN Uganda and Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) 30 days to resolve their differences. High Court judge Kibuuka Musoke gave the order amidst reports of an out of court negotiations between the two companies targeting an agreeable settlement. MTN filed a case against UCC challenging the implementation of uniform call termination tariffs for all telecom companies meant to take effect on January 1.

Inter connection rates are charges the telecommunication operators charge between each other to enable subscribers call various networks. UCC, the regulator of the communications industry in Uganda, was late last year issued with a court injunction that barred it from fixing interconnection rates at Shs131 for mobile, Shs125 for fixed phones and Shs15 for SMS services. Currently, telecommunication companies charge each other between Shs100 and Shs180 mutual on the basis of insider negotiations. These charges are invariably transferred to customers of various networks.

MTN claims that UCC can only intervene in the rates, if there has been a dispute between operators, which it says has not happened. However, UCC argues in its submission that "there was evidence of difficulties" in relation to the process of negotiating interconnection agreements, particularly on applicable rates.

The regulator further claims that the objective of setting up the uniform rates for all the players is to ensure "fairness" in competition, which will eventually lead to lower rates. UCC argued that MTN, using its own cost model, asserts that the true cost of interconnection ranges between Shs136 and Shs138 however, it continues to charge up-to Shs181 for new telecommunication companies, which threaten new companies and competition.

The Monitor