According to the Times of Swaziland, members of parliament have drafted a proposal to grant the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) a five-year exclusivity clause to operate the country’s telecoms backbone infrastructure. The amended Section 54 (1) of the SPTC Act, provisionally reads as follows: ‘From the date of coming into force of the Swaziland Communications Commission Act 2010, or soon thereafter as may be practicable, the commission shall grant to the [SPTC] an exclusive nationwide licence for, establishing, constructing, maintaining and operating the national telecommunications backbone infrastructure within Swaziland for a period not exceeding five years.’ Although the amendments have yet to be passed by parliament, the exclusivity deal is expected to enable the SPTC to grow into a business that can compete with regional telecoms giants such as South Africa-based MTN.
However, the country’s sole mobile operator MTN Swaziland has expressed concerns over whether the SPTC will stop trying to compete for end-users if it is granted the five-year exclusivity clause. When making submissions to the Parliament Portfolio Committee on ICT, MTN stated: ‘It would be unfair to other operators if they are forced to depend on SPTC for international gateway, and to have restrictive licences, while SPTC on the other hand is free to offer any service. It should also be considered that SPTC has benefited from the monopoly status in both fixed and mobile communication by its majority shareholding in Swazi MTN’.
MTN Swaziland and the SPTC – which is both the country’s telecoms regulator and the fixed line incumbent – have enjoyed a turbulent relationship in recent years, with the government proving reluctant to adhere to calls demanding the liberalisation of the telecoms industry. MTN added: ‘The granting of exclusivity to one operator technically means that this Act will be ineffective for the duration of the exclusivity’.