‘Switch’ is legal says study group

17 Jan 2007

Switch, the CDMA-based limited mobility service provided by fixed line incumbent Telecom Namibia, does not contravene the country’s laws, according to a study conducted by the Namibian Economic Policy Research Unit (Nepru). Nepru’s policy brief, entitled ‘Switch to competition – Regulatory challenges for Namibia’s telecommunication sector’, also praises Switch for introducing more choice and lower fees to the market. Launched in November last year, Switch caused uproar amongst GSM mobile operators and led to the industry regulator the Namibian Communications Commission (NCC) threatening to revoke Telecom Namibia’s CDMA operating licence. The country’s only operational cellco, Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) and start-up operator PowerCom (CellOne), accused Telecom of offering a mobile product under the guise of a fixed line service, and lobbied for the frequencies used by Switch to be limited to reduce its range. Nepru’s senior researcher Dr Christoph Stork said that according to the Posts and Telecommunications Act of 1992, there was nothing legally wrong with Switch, and posed the question: ‘should we really try and prevent operators from choosing the most cost-effective technical solution to provide telephony?’ Nepru’s report found MTC’s prices to be ‘very high’ compared to other service providers in the region, whereas Switch offered cheaper voice services compared to mobile contracts in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. As a result of the dispute over Switch, the government has appointed a technical committee to look into the legality of the service; the committee was expected to hold its first meeting this month.