Telecom Namibia’s CDMA service allowed to continue with restrictions

6 Mar 2007

The Namibian government has decided that Switch, the CDMA-based limited mobility service provided by fixed line incumbent Telecom Namibia, can continue operating but under a new set of restrictions. The Cabinet ruled that the service must be limited geographically to a radius of 60km with no roaming between towns. The launch of Switch in November 2006 was fiercely opposed by the country’s sole GSM mobile operator Mobile Telecommunications (MTC), which complained that it was providing a mobile service under a fixed telephony licence. MTC reacted with surprise to the Cabinet’s decision, with its managing director Jose Ferreira saying the decision that Switch be limited geographically per town did not address his company’s fundamental objection to ‘roaming’ between more than one CDMA base station within the same town. ‘This is clearly a breach of trust and confidence in the local markets,’ said Ferreira, adding that ‘handing over between cells is the licensed domain of the two mobile operators in Namibia for which we have paid licence fees,’ in reference to the second mobile licensee, Powercom (Cell One), which has yet to launch commercial services. The government indicated that the conditions may be altered when a draft Information Communications Bill is enacted. The Bill will be subject to a public consultation lasting up to three months and could reach parliament within four months. Under current legislation, Telecom Namibia does not need a licence from the regulator, the NCC, to offer specific services but needs authority to use frequency bands over which the NCC has control. Telecom obtained spectrum in the 450MHz and 800MHz bands in February 2005.

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