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Masunga on BTC gains from BOCRA Court victory

Publishing Date : 04 July, 2018

Author : REARABILWE RAMAPHANE

Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) Managing Director, Anthony Masunga told stakeholders and BTC shareholders on Thursday that the home grown telecommunications company stands to benefit from the recent cross- mobile networks tariffs reduction by Botswana Communication Regulatory Authority (BOCRA).


Masunga made these remarks when presenting background on BTC’s financial performance for the year ended March 2018. According to the Megaleng House Captain the recent High Court decision to uphold BOCRA’s cross mobile network tariffs reduction could result in increased market share for his company’s mobile operation segment. Botswana telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) and Orange Botswana were also cited as second and third respondent but they chose to be spectators in this regulatory dispute.


Masunga explained that the previous tariff arrangement for calls between different mobile networks only benefited mobile operators who already had a bigger market share. “We are relatively new in the mobile network operation space, only 10 years old, so before this reduction, what it meant was that people who were already on a certain mobile operator preferred to stay there. They also influenced their loved ones and associates to stay or switch to that particular operator in order to enjoy less tariffs within a network, and it made sense,” he said.


 The BTC MD observed that this in turn closed out BTC which already had a small share in the market because of its new comer status. BTC is competing with two other operators who began the mobile telephony revolution in Botswana from 1998 onwards. Masunga highlighted that the new tariff rates have now opened a window for people to migrate and juggle across the mobile network space hence giving them an opportunity to convince a significant number of consumers into their exiting BTC –Live Connected fold.


“In these past years we have experience decline in mobile network subscriptions due to a number of reasons amongst others subdued economy hence decreased purchasing power of new millennial, however as experts have forecasted positive economic prospects we are ready to lure these new service consumers especially young people into our network, hence potential of increasing our market Share,” explained Masunga.  


Botswana Telecommunication Corporation (BTC) market share in the mobile network was flat at 15 % since its inception as beMobile and has only risen to 16 % in 2016 after the company’s historic IPO and then reduced again to 15 % and has stayed flat since then. “These regulatory changes are disruptive to the trading environment, this means that there will be realignment in the consumer space and possible change of network operators giving us an opportunity to capitalize on that and increase our share in the market,” observed Masunga.


THE CASE AS PRESENTED AT COURT

Mascom Wireless Botswana recently lost with costs a case in which it had sought a review of the lawfulness of a directive promulgated by the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA), to regulate the Mobile Termination Rates (MTRs) in Botswana. Mascom wireless says the rates as set by BOCRA are very low and wants them increased.


Many in the industry see Mascom’s bitter fight as an effort to protect the revenue it was making from Mobile Termination Rates (MTRs) since it has the largest subscriber based when compared to other operators. The directive sets out charges that mobile network operators charge each other for network interconnection. Botswana telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) and Orange Botswana were also cited as second and third respondent but they chose to be spectators in this regulatory dispute.


Mascom wanted the court to determine if in issuing regulatory directive No1 of 2017 on the 24th March 2017, determining the charges that the mobile network operators have to charge each other for network interconnections, BOCRA had acted in accordance with its statutory obligations to take regulatory decisions in the open, transparent, accountable, proportionate and objective manner in terms of the Communications Regulatory Authority Act.


The mobile operator was also skeptical as to whether BOCRA acted duly in terms of its common law duty, arising under public administrative law, to act fairly and in accordance with the legitimate expectations it had created with the operators that it would, regarding the charges in case, complete the consultation process in which it was engaged with the operators. In essence Mascom Wireless is of the view that the directive that was issued by BOCRA is illegal, irrational, improper and wanted it reviewed and set aside.


But Judge Leburu noted that it is in the public interest that a consultation process must at some point come to an end so that certainty and predictability can prevail.  He said the directive was issued for public good, particularly the reduction of MTRs rates as well as Off-net and On-net tariffs. “The decision by BOCRA, within the context of its decision making powers in my view, demonstrates that a reasonable and rational choice and decision was made by BOCRA.”

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