Friday, October 29, 2010

Mobile warfare

TWO of Cambodia’s largest mobile operators – Metfone and Mfone – have blocked calls between their networks this week over a disputed US$500,000 fee payment, an official said yesterday.

The Kingdom’s second- and third-largest mobile operators respectively, as measured by government data on subscriber numbers, have taken turns blocking services since Tuesday, according to Mfone Chief Financial Officer Naruemon Sriphan.

The dispute arose over more than $500,000 in interconnectivity charges which Mfone believes was owed to it by Vietnamese military-backed Metfone, she said.

Interconnection fees are levied every time a call is made to a rival network.

Mfone claims that more Metfone subscribers had been using its network than vice-versa, due to activity from Metfone’s fixed-line “Methome” phones, resulting in the half-million-dollar fee, she said.

Earlier this month, after several months of follow-ups with regard to the money owed, Mfone informed the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications about the situation, she said.

The MPTC then sent a letter to Metfone asking for payment to avoid any service disconnection, but the warning again came without result, she said.

On Tuesday, Mfone blocked calls for a “few hours” from Metfone’s Methome fixed-line phones “as a warning”, after sending a letter to the MPTC last week to inform them of the action.

“Every step we took, we took with advice from MPTC,” said Naruemon Sriphan.

“Blocking is not good for anyone, especially for the customer. But it’s not fair to us, either, to continue providing services to the partner who never thought about paying the bill,” she said.

MPTC requested that Mfone reopen its network om Wednesday. But after unblocking calls, Mfone says, its competitor blocked all Mfone calls to the Metfone network.

The Post reporters tried without success to make cross-network calls early yesterday.

Full connectivity was restored at around 3pm yesterday, according to Naruemon Sriphan.

While Mfone has still not received the fee it claims it is owed, it hopes to collect it with support from the MPTC.

MPTC Director General Mao Chakrya declined to comment yesterday.

Metfone did not respond to written request for comment yesterday, which Mfone said was submitted during the period of blockage.

The dispute echoes a row last year that saw mobile operator Beeline accuse the Kingdom’s largest provider, Mobitel, of deliberately blocking calls.

The claims came after Mobitel officials accused Beeline of price-dumping.
(the source from The phnompenh post newspaper,Thursday, 28 October 2010 17:45 Jeremy Mullins)

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