The telecommunications regulator emerged victorious last week after it triumphed over mobile network operators to remove off-net premium on mobile voice calls. The victory comes a year later, amid legal battles, to stop Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority from fully implementing the directive issued in 2017.
The removal of Off- Net premiums follows the implementation of Regulatory Directive No.1 of 2017 issued by BOCRA mandating operators to remove Off-Net premiums over a period of two years. The first phase was done on 1 June 2017. The second and final phase was to be effected on 1 June 2018, however the latter’s implementation was held off by Mascom, the leading mobile network provider, which took the matter to Botswana’s high court.
With the latest ruling from the high court that favoured the regulator, Mascom and Orange are forced to slash the prices they have been charging their clients to call other networks. Be Mobile, another operator, is unaffected by the decision as it has been charging its subscribers the same rate both for on and off net calls.
“Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) informs consumers that beginning 1 June 2018, On-Net calls (Calls within network) and Off-Net calls (Calls from one network to the other) are charged the same rate. This means that within the same network and same package the charge for On-Net and Off-Net calls will be the same,” said Aaron Nyelesi, the regulator’s deputy director Corporate Communications, in a statement.
Nyelesi however cautioned that removal of Off-Net premium should not be understood to mean there is one calling rate applicable across all the three networks or that Pre-paid and Post-paid calls are charged at the same rate. “BTC, Mascom and Orange will continue to maintain different pricing structures in keeping with their business models. However, within the same operator and same package the charge for On-Net and Off-Net will be the same.”
The news of the price slash did not elicit much excitement to most consumers as they had not been many complaints regarding the cost of calls. Instead, consumers say the main concern is data costs which they find exorbitant, with inconsistent connections. Mobile network operators all over the world are experiencing dwindling voice calls revenue as less people use calls anymore to communicate. However there has been a boom in data revenue, with most consumers buying data to access their favourite social media sites, which they use for day-to-day communications.