Ethiotelecom, Safaricom in loggerheads over infrastructure sharing

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Severe disagreement arises between Ethio telecom and Safaricom Ethiopia Telecommunication PLC regarding the price and currency of payment for infrastructure sharing scheme.
“In September Safaricom has submitted 3 accesses requests based on the Ethiopian Communication Authority’s directive” Matthew Harrison-Harvey, Chief External Affairs and Regulatory Officer at Safaricom Ethiopia told Capital. He said “the first one is on the infrastructure sharing which has a number of components including sharing towers, transmission capacity and dark fiber. The other is in-to connection to enable customers of the of the two telecom operators to connect each other and the third is for National roaming.“
“Since September we have been in discussion with Ethio Telecom and we are still on it,” said Matthew, adding “we are expecting to reach an agreement within a month.”
In both side the key issue which leads to the disagreement is the pricing of the service and in some cases the currency of the service.
Officials from Ethio telecom told Capital that the public enterprise has requested Safaricom to make parts of the payment with foreign currency as Ethio telecom pays to build the infrastructures in foreign currency. However Safaricom officials are arguing that their company is registered locally thus they should pay in birr.
Ethio telecom has 7,100 towers and over 22,000Km of fiber optics all over the country.
“We are trying to resolve the issue and reach an agreement until the end of this month” said Matthew, adding that if the commercial agreement is not achieved then Safaricom will take the issue to the governing body, the Ethiopian Communication Authority (ECA).
The Authority is responsible for mediating negotiations if any dispute arises between operators. It may intervene at its discretion or, if requested by a party to an access agreement to determine whether the infrastructure sharing, collocation charges and compensation are cost-based, reads a telecommunications infrastructure sharing and collocation directive issued last year.
The directive states that all telecommunications operators have the right to request infrastructure sharing services from any telecommunications operator. The operators that received an application should also negotiate the terms of an agreement in good faith and not obstruct the negotiations, according to the draft directive. However, the directive gave room for the requested telecom operator to decline any application. It can reject an application if it has insufficient capacity or space; issues with safety, reliability, incompatibility of facilities; for integrity and security of the public telecommunications network and service; and if sharing is not economically or technically feasible.
On its Telecommunications Competition Directive No. 798/2021 the authority defined infrastructure Sharing as various kinds of arrangements to share an infrastructure sharing and collocation provider’s active and passive infrastructure, including, but not limited to, the sharing of network elements, antennas, switches, radio access nodes, systems, equipment, facilities, premises or rights of way, with an infrastructure sharing and collocation seeker, subject to an agreement between the parties
Interconnection involves the physical, technical and logical linking of the telecommunications networks of different operators to allow users of one operator to communicate with users from another or to access services provided by another operator.
Safaricom, which paid 850 million dollars for a 15-year license, is moving ahead with its infrastructure development project, having contracted Huawei and Nokia for its network development.
The operator wants to develop tower infrastructures on building-tops and import materials for its operations.
Two months are left before Safaricom Ethiopia launches what will be the country’s first private telecom services, but an infrastructure sharing agreement with the state-owned Ethio telecom remains unsolved.
In a related development, on Thursday March 10, 2022 Safaricom Ethiopia has signed a deal with Ethiopian Electric Power to use the latter’s dark fiber optics cable.
Under the deal, Safaricom will use a network of optical ground wire (OPGW) cables already installed along the high voltage transmission lines owned by EEP. The agreement will stay for five years.