Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has issued a public notice that the company will terminate mobile network interconnection services to the state owned mobile operator NetOne today, 23 August 2012. The notice, which was published in Zimbabwe’s print press today, cites the repudiation of their interconnection agreement by NetOne as the reason.
As you may be aware, Econet has continuously complained over the past couple of years, (most recently last month to a parliamentary committee), that government telecoms operators owe it obscene amounts of money in interconnection fees.
In the notice Econet shows that as much as US $20 million (excluding interest) is owed from as far back as 2009. Econet says it has tried engaging the Zim telecoms regulator, POTRAZ, and the government (Ministry of Communications and Infrastructural Development, and Ministry of Finance) to intervene but all has been in vain. The company says therefore that it is “obvious that NetOne was not prepared to honour its obligations” even as NetOne is collecting the fees due to Econet from subscribers.
Econet says it’s ready to reconnect once NetOne “makes a substantial payment towards the historical debt, and commits to meet future obligations on due date”.
We will be posting the full notice shortly.
We have contacted NetOne for comment and they are yet to get back to us. If Econet goes through with this, it will result in untold problems for the state owned operator. For starters, subscribers, together with the most loyal ones, are bound to migrate to other mobile networks en masse. Econet, with close to 7 million subscribers, commands about 70% of the total mobile subscribers in the country. According to the subscriber stats released by POTRAZ for the second quarter of 2012, NetOne has only 1.6 million subscribers.
Update: Here’s the full text of Econet’s public notice.