The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) has warned the country's Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to roll out approved new retail tariffs, scheduled for adjustment over two phases during the coming year or face heavy fines.
The first phase to eliminate off-net premiums and ensure that MNOs charge consumers the same tariff for on-net and off-net calls is already underway.
Local operator Mascom Wireless recently lost a court challenge aimed at reversing the regulator's plans due to lack of consultation with the telecommunications industry.
Aaron Nyelesi, BOCRA Deputy Director of Corporate Communications said, "Section 90 (8) of the Communications Regulatory Authority Act, 2012 prescribes a penalty not exceeding BWP50 000. The tariff reduction is in two phases. The first phase was on 1 June 2017 and last phase will be on 1 June 2018. This is with reference to on-net and off net tariffs. The idea is to illuminate off-net premiums by June 2018."
Nyeletsi adds that the regulator understands that the tariff adjustment could be halted by further challenges in court by Mascom Wireless.
"It is difficult to say (whether the tariff reduction process may be interrupted). But in the last court case the judgement left it to the operator to appeal if it so wishes. So in that light, an appeal is possible. From the regulator's standpoint there was adequate consultation. Granted not everyone was satisfied, but there was consultation and ultimately the regulator had to make a decision."
Enhancing consumer experience
BOCRA's directive to MNOs Orange, Mascom Wireless and Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) requires that they reduce the termination rate for fixed calls from 20 thebe per minute to 17 thebe per minute from 1 June 2017 and then by a thebe to 13 thebe/minute by 1 June 2018.
The mobile termination rate, which was 29.5 thebe per minute, has been reduced to 22 thebe per minute from 1 June 2017 and it will be reduced further to 13 thebe/minute by 1 June 2018.
BOCRA has directed Orange and Mascom to remove the off-net premiums and ensure they charge consumers the same tariff for on-net and off-net calls. BTCL has not made any changes to its tariffs as it does not have an off-net premium.
Tshoganetso Kepaletswe, acting Chief Executive of BOCRA said that the approved tariffs are the maximum prices that all MNOs can charge for any voice call service, meaning that all packages offered by MNOs should fall within the approved price range.
"As a regulator our main focus is around consumer experience and consumer protection and we commit to addressing, with great diligence, issues on fair pricing and fair billing, consumer education with respect to products they buy and how they must get better value out of those products and most importantly quality of service for both voice and internet services. We shall work hard to ensure that customers get what they pay for."
BOCRA's directive has not made pronouncement on mobile broadband data and has only indicated that it continues to collaborate with service providers and other relevant stakeholders in this regard.