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Court Rules Against Vodacom in DRC 2G License Battle

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A court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has upheld a recent government suspension of South African-based telecoms operator Vodacomís 2G telecoms licence in the country.

The telecommunications ministry suspended the licence in April. Bloomberg reported that DRC telecommunications minister Emery Okundji wanted Vodacom Congo to reapply for a 20-year 2G license, originally granted in 1998, claiming its 2015 extension was obtained illegally.

However, Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy told Connecting Africa that "Vodacom Congo followed a legally prescribed process when its 2G licence was extended in 2015 and duly complied with all applicable laws and regulations."

According to Reuters, the cost of renewing the licence is US$65 million, however Vodacom paid $16 million to renew it in 2015, a process the ministry claims did not follow proper procedures.

The company was given until May 29, 2019, to pay for the renewal of the permit, and the telecoms operator then petitioned the nation's top administrative court to reverse the government order to withdraw the 2G license.

Following this week's court ruling, John Aluku, chief of staff to the telecommunications minister, told Reuters that Vodacom Congo now had three months to renegotiate its 2G licence with the government before it goes up for auction.

"Vodacom Congo is in ongoing discussions with all the relevant authorities to resolve this unfortunate situation," Kennedy added.

Vodacom still has a battle on its hands in DRC to retain its 2G licence. (Picture courtesy of Vodacom.)
Vodacom still has a battle on its hands in DRC to retain its 2G licence. (Picture courtesy of Vodacom.)

The Vodacom Group holds a 51% stake in Vodacom DRC.

According to Vodacom's integrated report for the year ended March 31, 2019, the group has 12.2 million customers in the DRC. It is the market leader, with more than a third of the country's mobile accounts, according to research house Ovum: The other mobile operators in DRC are Orange, Airtel and Africell.

It appears that Vodacom Congo will be able to continue operating its 3G and 4G services even if it loses its 2G licence. The group launched 4G services in the DRC last year. It is, however, unclear how many of Vodacom DRC's customers rely solely on 2G for mobile services.

ó The Staff, Connecting Africa

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