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South Sudan's Vivacell shut down

South Sudan’s Vivacell shut down

Action reportedly taken over US$60 million tax dispute.

South Sudan's largest telecom operator Vivacell has issued a statement confirming that the company has been shut down by authorities over a tax dispute of over US$60 million.

This is believed to have resulted in over 900, 000 subscribers being locked out of communication.

Last week, the National Communication Authority issued a public notice announcing the suspension of Vivacell's licence.

The operator was given seven days in which to pay the fees or have its operations shut down.

At midnight on Tuesday, users were unable to establish a connection to the company's network signal.

"We recognise the difficult situation Vivacell and its business partners have found themselves as a result of the network suspension. We are continuing to engage with relevant authorities to ensure Vivacell is back on the air and hope this will be possible within the shortest time possible. We believe it's in the interest of all stakeholders to ensure Vivacell network is back on," read a statement issued by the company.

It added that in the event that the network is not switch back on, the company will provide for a clear mechanism for reimbursement of the cash equivalent for the airtime and SIM card stock currently being held by dealers, agents and retailers.

Government officials claim Vivacell has not paid licence fees since its inception in 2008. The telecom sector regulator has also accused the company of failing to adhere to the country's laws and regulations.

Vivacell Managing Director Jesus Antonio Ortiz Olivo said company representatives sought to meet Information, Communication, Technology and Postal Services minister Michael Makuei this week to discuss the matter, but the minister would not meet them.

He could offer no further detail as to the shutdown

Vivacell is owned by Lebanon's Fattouch Investment Group and is the country's largest operator competing with MTN and Kuwait's Zain.

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