Staff Writer

The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) on Tuesday upheld its decision to award a Class Comprehensive Telecommunications Service Licence to the City of Windhoek.

The telecommunication sector regulator has, however, imposed additional licence conditions to the CoW licence to address stakeholder concerns around fair competition and infrastructure sharing.

This comes after Paratus and MTC among other telecommunication companies had objected to the award, resulting in them appealing the regulators decision.

“After careful consideration of the various and valid observations and comments raised by stakeholders, CRAN upholds its decision of 29 April 2020, and awards the Municipal Council of the Municipality of Windhoek with a Class Comprehensive Telecommunications Service Licence effective 24 July 2020,” CRAN Chairperson, Heinrich Mihe Gaomab II said.

In its first ground for reconsideration, Paratus has argued that “an unauthorised person had made the licence application on behalf of CoW, with the Strategic Executive: ICT instead of the Strategic Executive: Electricity as directed by Council resolution.

“CRAN found that the important consideration for the Authority is the identity of the applicant as a legal person and not that of the person lodging the application on behalf of applicant,” he said.

Paratus in its second ground for reconsideration had argued that the application form submitted by CoW had been incomplete.

“CRAN found that it is factually correct that parts of the application form submitted by the Council were not completed. However, the information required by the specific parts of the form (that were not completed) was submitted separately as annexures to the application form. To this end, if one considers substance over form, the information provided in these annexures is what the regulations require,” Gaomab II said.

Paratus also argued that the public was not informed that the CRAN intended to award a Class Comprehensive Telecommunications Service License to CoW.

“The Authority’s view, is that it has the powers, to grant an appropriate licence, but limited to, those within a “class telecommunications service”. The Authority is further of the opinion that the business case as presented by CoW to the Authority, especially in respect of services such smart metering and public Wi-Fi, warrants the issuance of a Class Comprehensive Telecommunications service licence. This is because the provisioning of these services constitutes the conveyance of information via an electronic communications network and is not reliant on a joint venture with any other telecommunications service licensee,” the CRAN Chairperson said.

In its fourth argument, Paratus questioned CoW’s powers to apply for a telecommunications service license and to provide telecommunications services to the public.

“Consequently, it is not the Authority’s mandate to ensure that local authorities comply with the Commercialization Regulation, and adherence to the said regulations is not a requirement for the award of a telecommunications service license. To this end, the Authority does not have jurisdiction to enforce compliance with the commercialization regulations made under the Local Authorities Act,” he said.

“CRAN further finds that the Council has complied with all prescribed requirements. Thus the Communications Act does not prohibit institutions established in terms of the Local Authorities Act from applying for or being granted telecommunications licenses.”

Quizzed on the possibility of a partnership between Huawei and CoW, Gaomab II said the regulator said the new licencing conditions did not allow for shareholder changes without its approval and it is not within its mandate to prescribe service providers for operators.

“We are not granting the licence to Huawei but to CoW. We cannot prescribe to operators who their providers are. MTC and Telecom both use Huawei,” he said.

The CoW decision comes as Namibia has started the process of investigating the possibility of rolling out 5G technology in the country, with the Cabinet recently directing the environment ministry to conduct a thorough environmental assessment and CRAN to develop a 5G strategy for country.

5G is the fifth generation technology standard for cellular networks technology and Huawei are current leaders in the technology, which cellular phone companies began deploying worldwide in 2019 and is planned successor to the current 4G networks.