BTC referred to competition body for anti-competitive behaviour

The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA/the Authority) recently convened a hearing to pass resolution on a formal dispute between Inq. Digital (Pty) Ltd (the Complainant) and Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (the Respondent) for breach of a licence condition. 

According to the telcom regulator, the dispute centred around the BTC’s breach of a licence condition by refusing to offer VDSL services (high speed fixed broadband) to Inq Digital (PTY) Ltd. Furthermore, the Respondent offered internet service providers wholesale services for ADSL at excessive prices, whilst offering VDSL services at retail price exclusively to itself, notwithstanding that VDSL Wholesale services and tariffs had been approved by the Regulator.

The Authority ruled in favour of the Complainant finding that the Respondent: acted in breach of its Services and Applications Provider Licence conditions by refusing to offer VDSL wholesale services to other licensed operators; and acted in contravention of Regulatory Directive 1 and Tariff Guidelines of 2017 by failing to avail VDSL wholesale services to other licensed Operators using the same prices, processes, and terms. 

“Further, BOCRA has warned BTC to desist, with immediate effect, contravening the Regulatory Directive and Tariff Guidelines and to ensure that remedial steps are taken with immediate effect within a period of 30 working days,” said BOCRA.

“Failure to remedy this contravention within the stipulated time, BOCRA will, within a period of 14 working days from date of such failure, impose a civil penalty on BTC as empowered by the CRA Act and as calculated in accordance with the BOCRA Penalty Framework of 2020.”

Further, the Authority, in accordance with section 89 of the Communications Regulatory Authority Act, took a decision to refer to the Competition and Consumer Authority, some allegations of anti-competitive behaviour by the Respondent contrary to the Competition Act.

BOCRA is governed by the Communications Regulatory Act (CRA Act) of 2012 to regulate the communications sector in Botswana. Section 6 (2) (a) enjoins the Authority to protect and promote the interests of consumers, purchasers, and other users of the services in the regulated sectors particularly in respect of the prices charged for, the availability, quality and variety of services and products offered throughout Botswana.