East Timor government plans to end telecom monpoly

9 March 2007

Dili, East Timor, 9 March – The East Timor government has announced plans to bring the monopoly in the country’s telecommunications market, held by Timor Telecom, to an end and Prime Minister José Ramos-Horta has asked the government to prepare a reform of the telecommunications sector.

In a statement issued in Dili, Ramos-Horta praised the considerable investment made by the company, in which Portugal Telecom has a stake, but noted that “the country needs, however, efficient telecommunications at affordable prices and that are accessible to all.”

The Timorese prime minister said he had taken into account an independent report on the regulatory framework for the country’s telecommunications, which characterised it as “unilateral and impedes development for the sector.”

The document also said that Timor Telecom’s obligations were “weak” in relation to the “universality of the public service of which it is the concession-holder,” indicating that the number of East Timorese with access to a telephone and the Internet was lower than three people per thousand, “and the rural population is almost entirely excluded.”

The independent report is, currently being analyzed by a restricted number of telecommunications consultants and authorities, the statement from Ramos-Horta’s office added.

The concession contract, which is exclusive to Timor Telecom, was signed in July 2002, and is valid for 15 years and renewable for a further 10.

Timor Telecom has exclusivity in providing fixed, mobile, data, rented circuits, public telephone and international call services, the only exception being the Internet, which already works in a competitive way.

PT is the company’s biggest shareholder, with 41.12 percent, and Timor Telecom is also part-owned by the East Timor state and Vodatel, amongst other shareholders.

In 2004, the latest figures available, Timor Telecom had turnover of US$17 million, a rise of 42 percent on the previous year.

In the same period, the client base rose 26.28 percent to 28,000 customers. (macauhub)