Mozambique operators in spat over unpaid debt

Mozambique operators in spat over unpaid debt

There have been multiple reports over the past few days suggesting that Mocambique Telecom (Tmcel) may soon be unable to offer voice calls after an interconnection-related spat with fellow operator Vodacom Mozambique.

The reason customers with Tmcel may soon not be able to phone people using the Vodacom network is apparently an unpaid debt of about $9.6 million.

Vodacom, by far the biggest mobile phone operator in Mozambique, claims that Tmcel has failed to pay interconnection tariffs since 2018. According to TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Vodacom may soon stop connecting voice calls from Tmcel users to the Vodacom network “in order to avoid the growth of debt”.

Of course, things won’t quite be as simple as that. Firstly it’s true that Tmcel customers could be prevented from making calls to Vodacom customers. However, users of the Vodacom network will be able to continue to make calls to Tmcel phones. Text services will be unaffected.

Vodacom wants Tmcel to hand over at least one-third of the amount owed in order to postpone any disconnection. TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate says a meeting has been called between the two operators and the local telecoms regulator for 18 June.

A BBC report notes that Vodacom has a 49 percent market share, with more than seven million subscribers. Movitel has a 28 percent share and more than 3.7 million subscribers. Tmcel has a 23 percent share and fewer than three million subscribers.

Tmcel, which is majority-owned by the government of Mozambique, was the first mobile phone firm to operate in Mozambique but has recently been dealing with the threat of bankruptcy. Vodacom is 85 percent-owned by South Africa’s Vodacom Group.

There appears to have been no official statement on this issue so far from Tmcel.

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