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Mascom & Co submit reduced tariffs for approval

MBONGENI MGUNI
Cellphone User
The country's three mobile network operators have filed reduced retail tariffs with the regulator, in line with last week's landmark decision where the High Court dismissed Mascom's challenge against the imposition of lower voice charges.

Mascom, comfortably the country’s largest mobile network, unsuccessfully sued against a Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) decision to reduce a key component making up voice charges, by 41%. Mascom also failed to stop the removal of the “off-net premium,” meaning from June 1, at wholesale level, the three networks will charge each other the same tariff for voice calls. 

For consumers, last week’s High Court victory for BOCRA means lower voice charges across all networks due to 41% drop in Mobile Termination Rates (MTR) and the removal of the off-net premium. The off-net premium and MTRs are major components of the costs mobile operators charge each other for voice calls across networks.

According to a March 2017 BOCRA board directive, Mascom, Orange and beMOBILE were to file their revised mobile tariffs by Wednesday, being the second part of a two-year reduction ordered by the directive. “They have to file their proposed retail tariffs in line with the reduced MTR and the removal of the off-net premium and indications are that they have done so,” BOCRA insiders close to the matter told BusinessWeek. “The regulator will then look at the proposed and either approve them for implementation on June 1, or give the networks counter-proposals.

“It must be noted that the removal of the off-net tariff in no way means retail charges will be the same for all networks. Each network has individual costs of carrying the service and

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the retail tariffs will reflect that, otherwise we would say there is collusion.”

Last June, the first year of the two-step reduction, Mascom’s peak retail charge to calls to other networks fell from P1.50 per minute to P1.40. The peak off-net tariff is the highest voice charge in the market. By Wednesday afternoon BOCRA’s lawyers in the Mascom matter told BusinessWeek that no appeal of the High Court decision had been received from the mobile operator.

Mascom’s chief communications and public relations officer, Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego  said the mobile operator was still reviewing the decision internally and considering the options available. She confirmed that Mascom had submitted its revised tariffs on March 22.

“Let us clarify that the issue for Mascom in seeking a review of the directive before the courts, was never about a refusal or reluctance to reduce tariffs,” Lebotse-Sebego said.

“Even before we knew the outcome of the court case, we had already, on March 22, submitted revised tariffs to the regulator in anticipation of the implementation date of June 1, as set by the regulator.

“Mascom took a decision to challenge the regulator in court after our attempts to engage the regulator on the implications of how their interpretation and implementation of the directive would create a scenario which is unheard of in any competitive mobile market, local or international, where the same retail service is regulated for different providers, at different price ceilings.”



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