ECONET Wireless has been forced to reverse is decision to switch-off interconnection services with NetOne over a US$20 million debt after its rival challenged the move at the High Court.
Lawyers for both companies confirmed the development, adding High Court judge Justice Ben Hlatshawayo had told them their row would needlessly inconvenience subscribers.
“Econet has taken a unilateral decision to reconnect NetOne considering both the negative impact on the subscribers and the unreasonable stance that NetOne took of disregarding the impact of the disconnection,” Econet’s lawyer Harrison Nkomo said.
Collin Kahuni, representing NetOne added: “The basic position is that the chairman of Econet (Tawanda Nyambirai) has agreed to reconnect NetOne immediately and he has been given a postponement... to enable Econet to file their response to our application.
“We believe that the decision to disconnect us unilaterally was illegal.”
Econet abruptly cut off its rival Thursday claiming NetOne had failed to meet the terms of their interconnection agreement under which the operators would pay US7c per minute for calls going into each other’s network.
NetOne had allegedly failed to remit accumulated monthly fees due to Econet amounting to US$20 million, excluding interest, since May 2009.
Industry regulator Protraz said the companies' dispute over the interconnection fees should be taken to arbitration.
“Every licencee is expected to interconnect. This is an issue that involves the shareholder and we will wait for the parent ministry (Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development) to react to it first,” Potraz director general Charles Sibanda said.
“The law is very clear that if the two companies fail to agree on interconnection agreement they have to come to the regulator. On the issue of debts, we have nothing to do with them. If they fail to agree they can go to the Arbitration Court.”
Econet said it had approached Potraz and the government, which owns NetOne, over the dispute but had failed to make any headway.
“Econet, as a public company, has duty to safeguard the interests on the investing public and it has patiently allowed NetOne to disregard its financial obligations for a period of more than three years and it can not offer free service to NetOne in perpetuity,” the company the company said.
Econet is the Zimbabwe’s largest telecoms company with 6.5 million subscribers followed by Telecel Zimbabwe while the state-run NetOne ranks third.