The long running dispute between telecoms regulator the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunication Corporation (SPTC) and the country’s sole wireless operator MTN Swaziland has taken on a new dimension following widespread network outages this week. Ambrose Dlamini, MTN Swaziland’s managing director, placed the blame firmly with the watchdog, commenting: ‘Swazi MTN wishes to extend sincere apologies to all its customers for the network interruptions in various parts of the country. The interruptions were caused by the failure of the SPTC backbone infrastructure between Mbabane and Matsapha, upon which Swazi MTN is dependent to provide communication’. However, the SPTC has denied any wrongdoing on its part, retorting: ‘SPTC wishes to unequivocally disassociate itself from Swazi MTN’s network outage experienced on Saturday. The statement issued by Swazi MTN imputing that the outage was as a result of a break in the SPTC backbone link between Mbabane and Matsapha is wholly inaccurate and lacks any basis whatsoever. However, we are cognisant of the detrimental effects the statement has on the image of SPTC as a telecommunications service provider both domestically and globally’.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the two parties were recently embroiled in a legal battle over the SPTC’s attempts to launch fixed-wireless services under the ‘One’ brand name using MTN’s network infrastructure. In April High Court Judge Bheki Maphalala declared that there is not a conflict of interest in the SPTC entering the retail market as it was no longer a shareholder in MTN Swaziland, having recently transferred its 41% shareholding to the Ministry of Finance. Further, Maphalala indicated that the SPTC has shed its regulatory responsibilities, handing them over to the government’s Ministry of Communications. In January the SPTC provoked MTN’s ire when it denied the cellco a 3G licence despite the fact that the network had successfully been trialled during the Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA) summit in August 2010. No reason was provided for the licence refusal.