4 December 2012

Rwanda: MTN Suspends Top Official Amid Network Troubles

MTN Rwanda has suspended its Chief Technical Information Officer Maher Maarouf amid network failures that continue to beleaguer the country's telecom market leader.

The decision, according to our sources, was reached after the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), the sector regulator, complained to the operator about last week's strong network hitches.

But Khaled Mikkawi, Chief Executive Officer MTN Rwanda, denied the reports, saying Marouf had neither been suspended nor sacked.

"What you are telling me is new, it's not the fact," he said yesterday, before adding that Marouf had left the country briefly to attend to family matters but will be back in office.

Jean Baptiste Mutabazi, the Head of Communications and Media Regulation Department at RURA, told The New Times that the regulator had issued a warning to MTN following last Friday's network breakdown.

MTN was hit with network breakdown on Friday through the weekend which left many subscribers unable to receive or make calls.

There has been persistent breakdown in the operator's network since the beginning of the year which attracted a fine worth Rwf3 million a day, effective September 14, 2012 until the operator fixes the problem.

The regulator has powers to issue an enforcement notice and to impose a penalty to telecom firms over persistent poor quality services.

The operator was ordered to fix the problem within one month or face other regulatory measures, but the problem is yet to be fixed.

"We carried out drive tests and found out that the problem was still there, there are procedures that were not fulfilled," Mutabazi explained.

RURA, whose network performance survey showed a significant number of call set-up failures and abrupt call disconnections, also warned Tigo Rwanda for similar inefficiencies, and asked them to fix the problem immediately.

The regulator issued an enforcement notice to Tigo, the second telecom by market share, to settle the problem of poor call set up failure rate and a high call drop in its network but did not impose a penalty.

MTN attributes the network hitches to the ongoing upgrading to service its increasing subscriber base that now stands at over 3 million.

Mutabazi said, "We were told it's an issue of software configuration and optimisation in the system".

According to telecom experts, upgrading of system may cause some network hitches which may result into call drops, unable to receive or make calls.

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