Telecom urges policymakers to let it roam free

5 Aug 2008

Telecom Namibia’s managing director Frans Ndoroma has told journalists that the country’s long-delayed Communications Bill must include a clause to allow the fixed line incumbent to enter the mobile telephony sector, reports Afrique En Ligne. Ndoroma said the draft bill, soon to be debated in Parliament, did not address converged technologies and services strongly enough. He argued that ‘policy consideration should aim to promote and regulate convergence, technology and service-neutral licensing, as has been the trend in our SADC neighbours…[Telecom Namibia] should thus be granted a licence which unlocks the provision of services over the whole ICT chain, [and] should not be curtailed to being a fixed line operator, as proposed in the bill.’ He went on to declare: ‘I do not want to contemplate the future if we are not allowed to operate mobile services and I hope that sense will prevail in the regulators to benchmark this before they commit the bill to legislators.’ According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, state-owned Telecom Namibia launched a CDMA-based wireless service under the Switch brand in November 2006 under its existing fixed line licence, which initially offered unrestricted CDMA voice roaming in network coverage areas. However, after complaints from GSM mobile network operators Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) and PowerCom (CellOne), in May 2007 the Namibian Communications Commission (NCC) restricted the voice service to one specified access zone per user, within their home city/town. The cellcos had 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. Under current legislation, Telecom Namibia does not need a licence from the regulator to offer specific services but needs authority to use frequency bands over which the NCC has control. The telco obtained wireless spectrum in the 450MHz and 800MHz bands in February 2005.