Mozambique: No Agreement Between Mobile Phone Companies

Maputo — A further round of negotiations on Friday between the publicly owned mobile phone company, TMcel, and the South African owned Vodacom, under the mediation of the Mozambique Communications Regulatory Authority (ARECOM), did not bring the two companies closer to a compromise over the debt that TMCel owes to Vodacom.

Last Monday, Vodacom threatened to end its interconnection with TMcel, which would make it impossible for TMcel subscribers to ring Vodacom numbers.

Vodacom said it had been forced to take this decision because TMcel has run up a debt of around 640 million meticais (about 10.3 million US dollars), arising from TMcel's alleged failure to comply with the interconnection contract between the two companies. This contract allows subscribers to each of the companies to make phone calls and send messages to subscribers of the other network.

At Friday's meeting TMcel proposed paying off 200 million meticais of the debt within the next 90 days. Vodacom rejected this out of hand, and demanded that TMcel pay 200 million within ten days.

Vodacom claimed that TMCel has not presented a satisfactory plan for paying off the debt. Hence, after the expiry of the ten day deadline, "Vodacom reserves the right to cut off the interconnection, as announced earlier", the company declared.

In its proposal, TMCel said that, in addition to paying off 200 million meticais by September, it would also start paying 12 million meticais a month, as from June.

How to pay off the remainder of the debt would be analysed after paying the first 200 million meticais.

A statement from TMCel said that, with this proposal, the company "is making an enormous effort to honour its commitments and to guarantee that TMCel users and clients are not damaged by this attitude of Vodacom.

It added that Vodacom should accept this "huge financial effort" TMcel is prepared to make "as part of a relationship of interdependence between the two operators".

It pointed out that Vodacom also uses the TMCel network and, "in the spirit of a healthy commercial relationship", these negotiations should be concluded in a way that does not cause losses to the clients of either operator.

TMCel urged Vodacom to negotiate "with good sense and in the best interest of communications in the country".

If Vodacom carries out its threat, it will become impossible to make calls from any TMCel number to any Vodacom number - but Vodacom will continue to allow its clients to ring TMCel numbers. The flow of text messages between the two operators will continue as normal.

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