Players within the Botswana telecommunications industry are tipped for a new phase of breakneck and exciting competition following an invitation by the industry regulator to receive applications for licences under the service neutral framework.
The new framework does not discriminate between mobile and fixed line licenses.
The Botswana Telecommunications Authority says it will be receiving new applications with ?immediate effect.?
The BTA new leap follows an announcement by Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, last year that Botswana?s telecoms industry would be fully liberalized.
She said at the time that government wanted to use the sector to position the country and grow international competitiveness.
Among the first companies expected to submit their applications is Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, a government owned fixed line operator that has struggled in vain to enter the mobile phone sector.
Over the years, the BTC has been losing its market share to mobile companies, Orange and Mascom, as the mobile phone service grew trendier and more convenient.
If awarded the new licence, BTC stands a better chance to become more attractive to foreign strategic investors sought by government under the ongoing privatization exercise.
BTA Chief Executive, Thari Pheko, said the new licensing framework would not only address problems associated with blurring distinction between services and technologies but will also facilitate introduction of new services which were otherwise not catered for under the old licensing regime.
He said it is no longer easy to make a distinction between fixed and mobile telephony, ?let alone separating data services from voice services.?
Pheko said under the new structure, all Botswana?s existing phone companies – Mascom, Orange and BTC, have the option to apply for Public Telecommunication Operator (PTO) licences if they wished.
Under the PTO, they will be allowed to offer, among other services, mobile telephony, fixed telephony and internet services under just one license.
?However, should these operators choose not to apply for the new PTO, they will continue to operate as either mobile or fixed telephone providers until their current licences expire.?
Pheko said the idea of not making it mandatory for existing operators to apply for the new arrangement goes for Internet Service Providers and Data Service Providers who have been providing services under separate licenses.
Such providers will be allowed to apply for a single Value Added Network Services Licence, which will allow them to provide a whole host of innovative services that include email, internet browsing as well as Voice over Internet Protocol.
?The Private Network licensees, on the other hand, will continue to operate as standalone entities but will have revised terms and conditions which shall not be substantially different from their existing ones,? said Pheko.