Telecom Namibia last week launched its Switch mobile phone system surrounded by growing controversy about whether the company is entitled to offer the service or not.

Chairman of the Namibia Communications Commission (NCC), David Imbili, last Thursday disclosed that the day before, the NCC sent Telecom a letter revoking the radio frequencies it allocated to the company to operate Switch.

"Telecom Namibia actually conned us because they said they were introducing fixed-wireless services mainly for rural areas, but a 30-kilometre range is a mobile phone service," Imbili said angrily.

According to Imibili, under present legislation Telecom Namibia does not need a licence from the NCC to offer particular telecommunications services. Telecom Namibia, he said, does however need authority from the NCC to use frequency bands over which the NCC has statutory control.

He stressed that only recently Namibia had made great efforts to attract Powercom to Namibia as the second mobile phone operator, with the company committing to invest large sums of money in the country.

The NCC, as the regulator, did not want to see a third mobile phone operator in the country at this stage."This does not augur well for competition, because Namibia Post and Telecom Holdings still own 66% of MTC and 100% of Telecom Namibia.

Imbili was adamant that the NCC would not allocate any frequencies for Telecom's new Switch mobile phone service. Government, he added, also needed to make up its mind about whether it wants to attract foreign investors or not, because it would not be possible to attract investors if they are undermined.

At a media briefing Thursday, Telecom Namibia was equally adamant that it was acting within the parameters of Namibian law. Telecom says it applied for a frequency allocation for the provision of CDMA service in 2004, which it obtained in the 450 and 800 MHz bands in February 2005. It, however, accuses NCC of trying to limit the scope of the service to be rendered by Telecom in subsequent correspondence.

"Telecom Namibia has placed its position on record with the NCC that the company will continue to utilize such frequency bands as were duly allocated to it by the NCC," the Corporation said in a statement read by Acting MD, Robert Offner.

Senior Manager for Product Research at Telecom, Armando Perny, said the main advantage of Switch is that it offers high-speed Internet connectivity. This will allow users to connect to the Internet at speeds of up to 153 kilobits per second on mobile handsets, and as high as 2.4 megabits a second for the broadband option.

New Era