TelOne admits blocking calls to mobiles to keep head above water

16 Nov 2009

Zimbabwe’s incumbent national PSTN operator TelOne has admitted for the first time that it restricted fixed-to-mobile calls in an effort to keep its debts from mounting, an report reveals. The telco owes USD22 million in interconnection charges to mobile operators, its acting managing director Hampton Mhlanga told the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology last Thursday. Mhlanga explained: ‘There was a time that the liabilities increased so much that we took a business decision… we were not allowing 100% of calls to mobile operators, especially to [the largest network] Econet, so that we [could] reduce our liability. However, we have since had discussion with the operators, and we said to them, we will pay you 10% of our collections, until such a time as we are able to collect 100%.’ Mhlanga also said that the Cabinet decision to force TelOne to slash its tariffs earlier in the year had plunged the PTO deeper into debt. Its obligations to other telecoms operators and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority had ballooned following the directive, Mhlanga told the committee, whilst he added that the company had been collecting only about 15% of its bills from customers, yet the Revenue Authority demanded tax returns to be based on bills rather than actual money collected. In a statement TelOne said it would end an ‘amnesty’ on disconnecting defaulting customers as from 1 December.

Zimbabwe, TelOne