Fierce competition is looming within the mobile telephone industry as the Botswana Telecommunication Authority (BTA) is mulling over plans which will enable subscribers to switch to any mobile operator without loosing their numbers.
An official at BTA confirmed that the issue of existing subscribers having to switch to any mobile operator of their choice without loosing their numbers has been a heated one and was raised at a number of meetings.
“The issue was raised on several occasions, especially during the numbering meetings and was supposed to have been referred to the international governing body (The International Telecommunication Union) for advise,” a source said Friday, adding that technical people are the ones who are supposed to know how far the case is and when it is expected to start to be implemented.
Attempts to get hold of senior technical people at BTA on Friday were futile as they were said to be either on half-day or on leave.
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 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.
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 ÔÇö where they discussed the new kid on the block and were expected to discuss their strategy and the budgets.
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 (being 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 ÔÇö rather than renting out that space to anyone.