Author: Mikhail Doroshevich
On the 6th of August, the Ministry of Communications in Belarus ordered the country's two GSM operators , Velcom and MTS, to establish interconnection by the 8th of August.
If either of the operators fails to comply with to the order, it will have its licence withdrawn. According to the Ministry, the two companies should come to an agreement about interconnection as soon as possible.
Government officials ruled that payments for interconnection should be based on prices established by Beltelecom. Again, if either of the companies refuses to accept this condition, their licence will be withdrawn.
Velcom blocked the interconnection with MTS immediately after MTS began operating in Belarus. Velcom management said that the move was taken due to the absence of agreement between the operators, which is a requirement by law.
However, the main basis for the conflict is traffic payments. According to the licence terms all the incoming calls should be free for clients. Thus MTS would pay for MTS clients' calls to Velcom clients. But, in Belarus the two operators do not have a direct channel and both use the Beltelecom channel. In this case MTS has to pay both Beltelecom and Velcom.
Velcom became the first Belarusian GSM-900 when it began operating there in 1999. It is a joint stock venture between SB Telecom ( 49 per cent), Beltelecom (31 per cent) and Beltechexport ( 20 per cent). At present Velcom has 250,000 telephone subscribers.
Belarusian MTS has got its GSM-900/1800 licence in April of this year. The Russian company MobileTeleSystems (MTS) owns 49 per cent of the company and 51 per cent is owned by Beltelecom. MTS started its operations in Belarus on the 27th of June, and now has 9,000 telephone subscribers.
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