‘Swaziland only country with un-liberalised market’, says MTN CEO

Telecoms

Swaziland is now the only country in the southern African region that has not yet liberalised its telecommunications market.Swazi MTN CEO Ambrose Dlamini said because of this, the company was ‘forced’ to use another company’s infrastructure and as such, this hindered development of the industry as well as improvement of service delivery.

He said Swazi MTN wants to have its own infrastructure because reliance on the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC)’s transmission network was a challenge for the mobile network company.
“In terms of the law, SPTC has exclusive privilege to provide backbone infrastructure in the country. For us this is a challenge because we’d prefer to have our own so we can have control over our transmission and how we use the infrastructure,” said Dlamini yesterday during a media breakfast meeting at Gigi’s Restaurant at Ezulwini.

“MTN has no control over the performance of SPTC’s transmission network. This is a problem for us, especially when the infrastructure we’re using belongs to the competition. We would like to be able to put up our own infrastructure. As it is, we’re the only company in the region that’s still being forced to use another company’s backbone infrastructure and this is making Swaziland uncompetitive.”

Swazi MTN says the continued reliance on the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC)’s international gateway increased costs which had a spillover effect on service rates for consumers.
CEO Ambrose Dlamini said this reliance also increased the time it takes to resolve faults. Adding, he said Swaziland was now the only country in the region that had not liberalised the market. “MTN is the leading telecommunications company therefore we need a reliable gateway so that Swaziland can enjoy significant macro-economic benefits. All the countries in the region have liberalised the market; Mozambique, Botswana and Lesotho have all done it so there’s no reason for Swaziland to be lagging behind,” he said.

“I think we can do much more, especially if we were to be given our own international gateway which would result in reduced costs and by extension, benefits for consumers as well. There’s really no reason why we should be lagging behind even Mozambique when we’ve never been at war. Government is trying to address this but the process requires that the laws must be changed.”

Swazi MTN is currently paying E627,000 per month for transmission of calls within a 30-kilometre radius, like for instance, between Mbabane and Manzini.
If the company were to connect via undersea cables, it could be paying about E53,000 per month for a distance between Swaziland and any point of presence in London, Amsterdam or New York, said Chief Marketing Officer Phillip Besiimire.
CEO Ambrose Dlamini said a survey conducted by KPMG found that Swazi MTN pays almost the highest in the world for leased lines.

“For transmission of a call between Mbabane and Manzini we use a leased line from SPTC (Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation), which is very costly,” he said yesterday during a media breakfast meeting at Gigi’s Restaurant in Ezulwini.
Benefit

“If we were able to provide our own, we would be able to reduce costs and pass on the benefit to consumers. For example, in South Africa if a mobile operator leases a line from Telkom, it pays about E500 but for us we would pay around E16 000.” Dlamini said if MTN were to link to EASSy’s undersea fibre-optic cable this would improve the company’s bandwidth and boost its broadband capacity. EASSy is a fully integrated high -capacity, multi-technology network that links southern, eastern and northern African countries to the rest of the world through various interconnection points to the existing global submarine cable network. MTN Group has direct ownership in EASSy.

“MTN Swaziland is an owner of EASSy cables through the MTN Group which allows all its operations to benefit. What we want is to be allowed to be connected to these cables through our own international gateway, which would reduce costs as right now we’re using SPTC’s broadband in terms of international connection.
Forced

“We’re forced to use whatever SPTC has in terms of international connectivity. We don’t want to be forced to use someone else’s infrastructure, we want to use our own undersea cables where MTN has invested,” said Dlamini.

He said the introduction of competition into the international gateway market could reduce call rates by up to 90% and double call volumes as shown by several studies. Adding, he said in Nigeria the cost of international calls was reduced by more than 90% since liberalisation while in Zambia it was by up to 80% and Kenya cut its international call rates by 70%.

“This in turn delivers significant macro-economic benefits by lowering the cost of business facilities, increasing trade and improving connections to the global economy; factors that are particularly important to developing countries,” he added.