Telecoms News - In Brief

Telecoms

-  Chairman of Orascom Telecom Naguib Sawiris, expects the company subscriber growth rate to fall at least 50% to 60% in 2004, from about 79% in 2003.

- TeleAccess (Zimbabwe) (Pvt) Ltd is embroiled in a dispute with the Zimbabwean regulator POTRAZ over its failure to launch itself as the SNO. TeleAccess was a-warded its licence by cabinet on January 3 last year, was initially expected to launch its project on May 1 and later on June 1 last year. But it failed, claiming it had not been allocated numbers to start offering service, something which Potraz has dismissed as a "lame excuse". TeleAccess argues that Potraz has failed to properly implement an official directive to issue it with a second national operator licence that encompasses voice telephony, public data and Internet access provision.

TeleAccess, which has a stake in Comtel, a regional firm trying to enhance telecommunication links within the 20-member Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, agreed to pay USD100 million for the fixed telephone network licence in local currency over 20 years at a favourable exchange rate of USD1:$55. Initially, Potraz had pegged the licence fee at USD320 million. The company, which is also bidding for a 51% in South Africa’s second national operator, has started paying the USD100 million licence fee. On March 28 last year it paid USD140 million. It was expected to pay another instalment on the first anniversary of its licence but has not yet done so.

- The South African Competition Commission has ruled that Telkom’s behaviour towards value-added network service (VANS) providers is anti-competitive. The matter ­ which follows the commission’s investigation into complaints lodged in 2002 against Telkom by the SA VANS Association (SAVA) and others ­ has been referred to the Competition Tribunal for determination. It has also been reported that the commission has asked that Telkom pay an administrative fine of 10% of its annual turnover, which could amount to R3 billion.

- Almost four years since Government decided to authorise a second cellular service in Namibia, it last week introduced legislation to the National Assembly to speed up the process of awarding a licence. According to Government’s Telecommunications and Regulatory Framework of 1999, the telecoms market should be open to competition no later than the end of this year.