The switch-off means Telecel Zimbabwe subscribers cannot call Econet Wireless subscribers.
Econet Wireless on July 10 this year renewed its operators licence for 20 years following the expiry of the 15-year licence issued in 1998. According to the firm the new 20 year licence places certain strict conditions on its operations under its Clause 5.2.2, which requires it to interconnect only with licensed operators.
Section 61 of the Act states that a licensed operator can interconnect with another licensed operator. According to Section 2 of the Act, a licensee as a holder of a valid licence issued in terms of section 37 of the Act. The act puts licensees under no obligation to interconnect with a provider of telecommunications services that is not validly licensed.
According to Econet Wireless’ statement, “Telecel Zimbabwe is not a holder of a valid licence issued in terms of Section 37 of the Act. Telecel Zimbabwe was announced as the winner of a tender to operate a mobile telecommunications service in 1996. The award of the licence to Telecel Zimbabwe was declared to be invalid by a High Court judgment handed down on 31 December 1997. Telecel Zimbabwe appealed to the Supreme Court, but the appeal was never pursued. The High Court granted leave for the execution of its judgment pending appeal. That leave was never challenged in the Supreme Court. If Telecel Zimbabwe was subsequently issued with a licence, the issue of such a licence was in violation of the High Court Judgment, and of the Telecommunications legislation that applied at the time.”
Though Telecel Zimbabwe acquired a licence in whichever means, the licence subsequently expired on 2 June 2013 and no new licence has been issued in its place.
” Therefore, as matters stand, Telecel is not a holder of a valid telecommunications licence issued in terms of section 37 of the Act,” said Econet Wireless.
Though Econet Wireless is wholly right according to the law to do so, sources in the country say Telecel Zimbabwe has been pushing Econet Wireless agressively and recently launched a promotion which would allow its subscribers to call Econet Wireless subscribers very cheaply, then eventually pushed it to all networks. To a critical eye, there is likely a kind of sabotage even if the move is legally justified.
Another point to note is that Econet Wireless, in renewing its licence was put through hugely burdensome financial obligations, in contrast Telecel has not been subjected to any such financial obligations. This distorts the level playing field there should be and therefore the switch-off.