Uganda’s state-owned fixed and mobile operator Uganda Telecom Ltd (UTL) has lost a legal appeal in a long-running interconnect dispute with domestic rival MTN. The country’s Supreme Court has upheld earlier rulings by the Higher Court and Court of Appeals which ordered UTL to pay overdue interconnect fees to MTN, which have been owed since 2008. UTL must now pay more than UGX6 billion (USD1.65 million) to MTN, including UGX3.4 billion in outstanding interconnect payments and the remainder to cover interest and fees, The Monitor reports.
The case centres on a 2007 agreement between UTL and the South Sudanese operator Gemtel. Prior to gaining independence from Sudan and without an international dialling code of its own, South Sudan requested permission to use Uganda’s international code of +256. MTN classified Gemtel calls as local as the customer dialled a local number, whilst UTL defined them as international. For the period March to December 2007, MTN invoiced UTL UGX6.5 billion for interconnect fees, but UTL paid only UGX3.47 billion, based on the international interconnect fee of USD0.50 rather than the local tariff of UGX100.