The Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) said Friday that it is still to do a detailed study on number compatibility but the initiative has long been rejected by established operators .
In a diplomatic tone this week, BTA said they “still need to investigate the cost effect” of the system, which, apparently, has been rejected by other operators outside the newly established Be Mobile.
“We have done a study on that before that involved the mobile operators,” BTA said. “But it was rejected by some of the mobile operators.”
It is understood that some of the issues which were raised by mobile operators included the size of the population for the country saying that it can not sustain a project of that magnitude.
However, the debate on number compatibility has been dominating the board rooms since Be Mobile came into the picture. Under the current regime, if one switches operators they loose the number and this seems to disadvantage the new operators in the market. Subscribers, mainly those on contract, are generally uncomfortable with loosing their numbers because that might result in loosing business.
By Friday this week, BTA was still insisting that there is a scope for number compatibility in Botswana as the cost of technology that is increasingly coming down world-wide.
The new development, if successful, would put on the mobile operators on the same footing, which would be in line with international practices. Further, no operator would feel disadvantaged by the changes, irrespective of when they started business.
Companies such as Be Mobile and those to be licenced after it would be able to compete on the basis of service delivery and pricing rather than on who came in first.
The discussion over the subscribers’ switch is said to have caused some consternation among the mobile operators who are expected to hike their advertising budgets in a bid to fend off a possible Be Mobile offensive.
Last week, insiders said that Mascom Wireless is expected to push its advertising budget (figures withheld) for the planned 12 months period.
Orange’s budget details are still sketchy but are understood not to be too far below that of Mascom.
Towards the end of last year, Orange called some of its marketing people to Paris, France ÔÇô for close to a month — where they supposedly discussed Be Mobile and were expected to discuss their strategy and the budgets.
However, Orange this week attempted to play-down the Paris retreat saying it is one of those “meetings” that are part of Orange International where they go for planning purpose.
Some of the issues, according to Orange Botswana, included new products, which are going to be launched during the course of this year.
The two big operators are said to be running neck-to-neck with each other in terms of subscriber base but are fearful of what might come next.
“The feeling is that they perceive Be Mobile as an organization with deep pockets and also backed by a big brother (government). It started to sink into their heads during the Premier League sponsorship when Be Mobile committed itself to P 15 million over a period of three years. Others could not match that,” sources told Sunday Standard.
Mascom had entered the race by saying it could sponsor the league with up to P 4 million.
Further, one of the issues that Be Mobile has an advantage over the other two privately-owned competitors is that it is renting most of the sophisticated infrastructure from Botswana Telecommunication Corporation (BTC), which is the parent company of Be Mobile. It has the liberty to set the tariff structure anyway that suits it.
This move has enabled Be Mobile to let its subscribers have weekend free calls at a time normally described as low pickÔÇöbecause they are loosing nothing — rather than renting out that space to anyone.