Government owes mobile operators USD52.2 million

25 Jul 2005

According to Ecuadorean newspaper Expreso, the government of Ecuador owes Telefónica Móviles’ local wireless subsidiary Movistar and Porta, which is owned by América Móvil, more than USD52.2 million in unpaid fees. The debts reportedly relate to a change in interconnection charges on 24 April 2004, when the previous arrangements between fixed line operators Andinatel and Pacifictel, and the mobile operators expired. According to BNamericas, the tariff was previously set at USD0.29, of which USD0.23 went to the mobile operators and the remainder to the fixed line telcos. When the contract ended, however, Andinatel began talks to renegotiate new tariffs, but in the meantime established two trust funds to deposit payments covering the period of the negotiations. The funds accrued more than USD52.2 million (based on the USD0.23 the mobile operators were supposed to receive), but the Ecuadorean comptroller general considers the tariff ‘not in the interests of Andinatel user’, nor the country, since it already has the highest tariffs in the region. Following 15 months of negotiations, Ecuador’s industry regulator Senatel has determined the new fixed-to-mobile interconnection charge should be USD0.15, but the authorities now need to decide what Andinatel must do with the trust fund monies, and what will happen with the state debt.