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Haiti - Telecommunications : The Digicel denies wanting to block the Natcom
27/08/2011 11:36:55

Haiti - Telecommunications : The Digicel denies wanting to block the Natcom
After the hearing of Voilà company officials last Thursday, the Senate Commission of Public Works, Transport and Communications, presided by Senator Jean William Jeanty (Nippes) has auditioned officials of the National Council of Telecommunications (Conatel) and of the phone company Digicel, who according to the Natcom refuses the interconnection.

Jean Jaunasse Elysée, Director General of Conatel, said that the State in its contracts with the operators gives the guarantee to these latter of the interconnection between different operators. The State is there to ensure that the terms are met. "The State must commit to guarantee the interconnection every times that necessary" moreover he stresses that the "business side" can also be the cause of delay in this process.

Maarten Boute, CEO of Digicel Haiti, denies the allegations of the Natcom, explaining that if the interconnection was not yet effective, this was due to technical differences due to bypass (1) and a few trade disputes. He says that his company does not block the interconnection with Natcom, as the latter claims.

He mentioned above all, technical problems, due to the size of the Digicel network and that of the Natcom and the various technologies used by both companies. Another important point according to the leader of the Digicel is the problem of bypass whose a large volume has been detected recently. He argues that this volume would have as cause a link of interconnection with Natcom and that this has forced the stop of the ongoing work on 5 August. This problem has forced the phone operator Digicel to acquire new technological equipment, expensive and sophisticated to control this problem with the Natcom, equipment should arrive in the coming weeks...

Concerning the different commercial between the two companies, the CEO of Digicel explained that he negotiates in good faith "as in all the commercial negotiation, there is some disagreements on which we must find a agreement" without providing details about the nature of these different...

All the operators in Haiti are interconnected [?], says the former Director of Teleco which ensures working on the issue of the interconnection between Natcom and Digicel.

A statement contradicted last Wednesday, by Allen C.Bayard Executive Director of AccessHaiti SA "Today, Digicel is the dominant player and it refuses, in contradiction with the law, the interconnection with Natcom, AccesHaiti SA and other operators [...] This is a problem that the state must resolve" calling for more professionalism in the fight against the bypass. "All the operators knew that the bypass would be inevitable because of the imposition by the Haitian government of a price floor on the minute of international call to 23 cents. This eliminates all the possibilityn of competition, as we are supposed to be an open country," lamented the leader of AccessHaiti, recalling the time when the companies was able to freely sell international calls to their networks at a price that suited them: 15, 17 or 18 cents.

"Operators, with the exception of Digicel, protested against the measure of President Michel Joseph Martelly who decided to charge 5 cents on each minute of call from abroad to finance the National Fund for Education [...] The floor price protects Digicel at the expense of Voilà, Natcom and other operators."

(1)The phone bypass (bypassing) as the re-filing, the cramming, slamming and the other technology, is a telephone fraud that appropriates a large percentage of operators' revenues and damages the interests of the state (less taxes). The bypass consists to route the international calls through a local network before reaching the final destination. This practice allows to bypasses the legal routes to transport telephone traffic. In short phone calls can be completed in Haiti without going through international networks of Voilà, Digicel, and Natcom and Haitiel which are the official operators. The goal for the individuals who provide the bypass is to make money by assimilating the incoming international calls to local phone traffic by taking advantage of the difference in pricing.

Operators serving the Haitian population often complain to the Conatel of this practice which is detrimental to their investments. Many suspect phone line were suspended by the operators to try to curb this practice. Unfortunately, the lack an adequate regulatory framework, constitutes an obstacle to any appropriate judicial response on the national territory to protect the interests of mobile operators and of the Internet service providers allowed to operate VoIP.

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