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Econet - NetOne battle heats up

By Alfonce Mbizwo, Harare, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s largest mobile network operator, Econet Wireless, says it will terminate mobile network interconnection services to the state owned rival, NetOne after the latter repudiated their interconnection agreement.

“NetOne has unequivocally repudiated its interconnection agreement with Econet. As a result of the repudiation, Econet…..will have no choice but to terminate all interconnection services it was providing to NetOne under the repudiated agreement,” said Econet in a statement flighted in the local press.

As a result of the termination, no calls will be made between the two networks. 

Econet says it owed USDDD20 million (minus interest) by NetOne from as far back as 2009. Econet says it has in the past engaged Zimbabwe’s telecoms regulator, POTRAZ, and the parent ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development, and Ministry of Finance to intervene but to no avail.

NetOne, Econet says, had denied the existence of an interconnection agreement with itself, even though it continued to receive payments from Econet originating from the agreement.

From the communication, it said it was “obvious that NetOne was not prepared to honour its obligations” even as it was collecting the fees due to Econet from subscribers.

Econet says it is ready to reconnect once NetOne ‘makes a substantial payment towards the historical debt, and commits to meet future obligations on due date’.

NetOne has yet to respond, but Econet has complained, most recently to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications that it is owed USD 85 million in interconnection fees by the two state owned telecoms operators, TelOne and NetOne.

Econet is also paying tax on the uncollected revenue.

NetOne subscribers are likely to come off worse in the skirmish between the two service providers. Econet, with 7 million subscribers, commands 70% of the mobile market in Zimbabwe while NetOne has 1.6 million, the least among the three operators in the country.

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