084 on hold

The much-anticipated take-off of MTN Namibia in the local telecoms market, and its expected toe-to-toe battle with state entities MTC and TN Mobile, has been delayed by ‘technical issues’.

31 August 2018 | Technology

OGONE TLHAGE



MTN Namibia’s planned 084 take-off, which would have seen it offering mobile services to SMEs and corporates by the end of August, has been delayed.

The MTN Group is a Johannesburg-headquartered provider of voice and data services, which operates in over 20 countries in Africa, Europe and Asia.

MTN Namibia had announced in July it would be operational by the end of August, but this has not materialised.

High-flying entrepreneur Vaino Nghipondoka, whose Profile Technologies has a 30% stake in MTN Namibia, said they wanted to get the company’s presence off the ground without any glitches, but there were technical issues that needed to be ironed out.

“These issues are quite technical and you cannot start if you are not quite ready,” said Nghipondoka, who is the chairperson of MTN Namibia.

“We are working on getting that right, so that when we start we do not want to bill people wrongly, as an example.”

He said the official entry of 084 into the market was still on track, despite MTN Namibia missing the set August deadline.

“We are working on the technical issues, we are getting there; the market should not worry.”

MTN Namibia managing director Elia Tsouros was unable to provide any reasons for the delay, as he was waiting for the MTN Group to provide responses to the questions sent to him by Namibian Sun two weeks ago.

Tsouros was asked how MTN Namibia would go about penetrating the local market that is currently dominated by MTC, in which the government holds a 66% stake.

He was also asked whether MTN Namibia would in fact be using the 084 number range, after this was initially announced, and whether piggybacking on Telecom Namibia’s network, which also houses state-owned TN Mobile, would not limit the quality or scope of its services.

Tsouros was also asked about the staff recruitment process and the need to fill critical positions, including those of a technical nature, as well as the upskilling of local employees.

The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) said this week it was not aware of any delays, in terms of MTN Namibia setting up its operations.

“The authority has issued MTN with all licences required to provide telecommunications services and is thus not aware of any delays in setting up a network,” Cran CEO Festus Mbandeka said.

MTN Namibia’s plan to become a mobile operator in the country was sealed in December 2017, when it was announced that Nghipondoka would take up a 30% stake and become its board chairperson.

Cran then cemented MTN’s presence in Namibia by giving it the green light to use the 084 number range.

At the time, Tsouros said piggybacking on Telecom Namibia’s infrastructure made absolute sense.

“Our relationship with Telecom Namibia remains. You cannot ignore Telecom; they have the largest infrastructure in the country. We need to work with Telecom to deliver the mobile service,” Tsouros said at the time.

He said the company would not be following the traditional approach.

“Initially we will focus on different segments of the market.”

The company initially plans to offer mobile services to SMEs and corporates.

“That is our strategy. We won’t be taking on MTC directly. We are going to do things differently by bundling different services,” Tsouros said.

He added that given the size of the MTN Group, the company will be provided with expertise from its operations in 24 countries to set up a mobile service.

“The ability that we have is that we can turn to the group’s 24 operations in other parts of the world. If it has been done before in the group, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we can bring in people from different countries to help us,” he told Windhoek Observer in January.

MTC spokesperson John Ekongo reiterated his earlier comments that they are not fazed by the competition MTN Namibia may provide when it eventually becomes operational.

“We believe in our strength, engagement strategies, our product and solutions as we have done over the last 22 years,” Ekongo said.

“We will continue doing that to ensure that we give every reason to our consumers to stay with us. Not because of the colour blue, but because we provide the best products, the best solutions available to them at all costs, wherever they are and however they want it.”

While MTC is confident it can successfully stand its ground against the might of the MTN Group, telecoms companies in Nigeria, where the group derives one-third of its revenue, recently expressed their displeasure over the behemoth being granted more spectrum space.

Visafone, a Nigerian telecoms company recently wanted to transfer its licence and resources, including its 800MHz band spectrum, to MTN, which was met with fierce resistance.

Law firm Probitas Partners LLP, which is representing MTN’s competitors, argued the proposed transfer would inhibit competition, create a monopoly and affect the entire industry, especially as MTN and Visafone are amongst the top five telecoms companies in Nigeria.

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