The Botswana Telecommucations Corporation (BTC) monopoly will end as soon as the corporation is privatised and the market liberalised.

Communications, Science and Technology Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi told a news conference this week that by September this year, the current fixed line and cellular operators might apply for the service-neutral licences.

Service neutral licences allow the operator to provide all telecommunications services including voice and data irrespective of whether the service is transmitted wirelessly or on a wire.

Mobile operators will also from August be allowed to put in place their own infrastructure to carry their traffic. Since their inception in 1998 they have been relying on BTC equipment.

Venson-Moitoi said the moves were intended to liberalise the industry, increase competition and enhance quality service at a reduced cost. Government has set August 1, 2006 as the deadline for the lifting of restriction on the provision of the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) by value added network service providers.

The lifting of the restriction on the provision of VoIP by value-added network service providers means allowing VoIP to be provided by Internet Service Providers (ISP), she said.

This was equivalent to issuing voice licences to Internet Service Providers at national and international level, the market currently serviced by BTC, Mascom and Orange. Venson-Moitoi said October 1, 2006 would see the liberalisation of international voice gateway. Liberalisation of the international voice gateway means allowing other players to provide international switching and transmission of voice services, the market that is currently a BTC monopoly, she added.

She said the privatisation of BTC would be done by selling off a portion of about 40 per cent of the equity to a strategic equity partner. It has been decided to allot a small portion of shares of about five per cent to BTC citizen employees, to place another portion of shares in a privatisation trust fund -- 15-25 per cent -- for sale to future generations of Botswana, and retain some 25 to 30 per cent of the shares for the later sale to the public by way of market listing, she said. BOPA  

The Daily News