Bloodied noses in MTC, NTN network brawl

New kid on the block MTN is seeking to climb on the back of the industry’s firstborn.

21 July 2021 | Local News

OGONE TLHAGE







WINDHOEK

Far-reaching regulatory conditions are said to have pitted the country’s biggest mobile telecommunications entity against a new entrant into the market - a situation which has placed the communications regulator under pressure to resolve the dispute.

How far the network fight between MTC and MTN Namibia will go remains to be seen, but for now, the latter is hell-bent on getting its way to tap into MTC’s rich infrastructure.

The battle for dominance is happening at a time when Namibia’s telecom sector is going through seismic change with several new players, including MTN and Paratus, threatening to get a piece of the billion-dollar pie which has been dominated by TN Mobile and MTC since independence.

Details of the fight between the two operators are contained in a series of official letters obtained by Namibian Sun in which MTN seeks to get its way.

MTC is questioning why South African mobile operator MTN wants to use its infrastructure, as it feels such a move would jeopardise its operations.

In February 2020, MTN wrote to MTC requesting a sharing agreement to utilise MTC’s infrastructure for national roaming.

After not getting a satisfactory response, MTN subsequently lodged a complaint with the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN), claiming MTC refused its request.

Through CRAN, MTN requested evidence that, indeed, MTC does not have capacity to share its infrastructure.

CRAN subsequently appointed Plum Consulting London to probe whether the capacity is available on MTC’s network in order to ascertain if the implementation of active infrastructure sharing through national roaming with MTN would place an unreasonable burden on MTC or the affect its services detrimentally.

MTC, however, feels that should the sharing agreement be implemented, it would result in a reduction in quality of service to its customers via weakened signal quality and a loss of ability for either operator to optimise its service without impacting on the other’s service delivery.

Valid request

MTN director Vaino Nghipondoka yesterday said the application was made in line with the provision of Namibian and international law, which allows operators to share network infrastructure.

“The law authorises operators to share existing infrastructure. The owner of the infrastructure is entitled to a levy to be determined by the regulator and we are prepared to do just that.”

He added: “The underlying principle is so that the entire country is covered with mobile network. There’s no point having network towers standing beside each other – one for MTC and another for MTN – when one could be erected in Gam or another remote area.”

Nghipondoka said MTC stands to benefit from the arrangement because of the levies due to them as owners of the infrastructure.

No piggybacking

On 31 May, MTC’s legal head Patience Kananelo wrote to CRAN asserting that “MTN needs to have its own network, MTC cannot be the primary network to MTN”.

She said allowing MTN to use its infrastructure for national roaming would impact its ability to provide quality services.

“National roaming needs to be continuous (not on selected sites). If done haphazardly, call drops will occur and impact on key performance areas and quality of service requirements of MTC.”

MTC also took issue with MTN’s request for active infrastructure sharing, which would enable the South African operator the ability to share network elements such as its base receive transreceiver stations (BTS), antennae and core.

“The assessment on whether MTC has capacity will have to be done on a per site basis and this can only be done once there is an understanding of where MTN wishes to share infrastructure. This information has not been provided to MTC,” the mobile operator wrote.

“It appears that MTN could be requesting for mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) from MTC as to our understanding MTN has no mobile network at all,” MTC added.

MTN had planned to launch its mobile services in August 2018.

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