Second Cellular Service Company Most Welcome

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Competition in the provision of mobile telecommunication services would be healthy for consumers as it would allow a choice, commentators say. Not only would the rates that are charged be reduced but revenue that accrues to the Government would also increase, says an economic researcher at Nepru, Rehabeam Shilimela. The Government recently gave the green light to the Na-mibia Competition Commission to issue a license to a second provider of cell phone services. Chairman of the commission, David Imbili said he would give out information on the second operator in due course. MTC has welcomed the move saying there is space for two providers because consumers need a choice. Shili-mela said MTC has enjoyed a monopoly all along, adding that this would reduce the costs of doing business in Na-mibia because the higher the cost of telecommunications, the higher the cost of doing business in the country in general. Albertus Aochamub, Senior Manager: Corporate Services at MTC, told New Era yesterday, “We will welcome anyone to share the space. We believe that there is space for a second operator and we welcome it.” The bid for a second cellular company closed in November 2003, during which two companies were short-listed, but the awarding of the license had been put on hold. Only recently though has Cabinet given the go-ahead for the country to have a second operator. Aochamub said the customer growth rate for MTC has been phenomenal, which has necessitated the setting up of new base stations to improve the range of coverage in the country. By December this year, MTC plans to cover all the highways in the country to enable road users to be able to communicate per mobile phone. The challenge is however that the company will have to get permission from local authorities to okay it as many people have expressed concern over the base stations of MTC, which they say look ugly, as they are fake palm trees. MTC said after the environmental assessment that if one person objects to the setting up of the base station, the project of that particular area would have to be cancelled. To deal with congestion, the mobile telecommunications company last year put up a second switch in Oshakati to reroute all traffic emanating from the north. This however did not help much because the volumes also increased tremendously. “No operator can handle the volumes at once,” he said. Over the past 10 years, MTC has invested N$750 million in setting up a network which now accommodates close to 455 000 active subscribers. The company’s new sites for coverage include, among others, Terrace Bay, Otjiwasando, Palmwag, Grootberg, Tsintsabis, Kalk-feld, Otjiwarongo road, Safa-rihoek, six sites in Otjozon-djupa and Omaheke, Osire, two sites at Langerheinrich mine, and at Klein Aub and Groot Aub, and four sites in Caprivi and Hoachanas.