Roam if you want to

Could Econet piggyback on Vodafone's network?

Econet would not be able to roll out a New Zealand network in four months, say local industry sources — but it's possible the company is planning to piggyback on an existing cellular network.

Vodafone refused to confirm or deny whether it has had any discussions with Econet Wireless over roaming access to its network when contacted by Computerworld. Public policy manager Roger Ellis says a new entrant in the mobile market could begin building its own network and then be granted roaming rights onto Vodafone's, but would have to meet certain criteria first.

Under the terms of the Telecommunications Act, Econet would be allowed access to an existing cellphone provider's network if it demonstrated its willingness and ability to build its own network.

"They're required in the Act to have built a network that is 10% of the area in which the New Zealand population normally lives or works, and to demonstrate their ability to build the rest of their network. It's to give them a temporary leg up in the market — it's not supposed to be a long term solution."

Ellis says any company planning to ask for roaming access to another company's network would have to lodge its plans for network build, including timelines, schedules and a detailed breakdown, with the Commerce Commission.

Commission spokesperson Jackie Maitland says while Econet and the Commission have met to discuss "various issues" over the past three years, the company hasn't lodged any network plans with the Commission.

TelstraClear is not currently in discussions with Econet Wireless, says spokesman Mathew Bolland. TelstraClear itself is currently assessing the 3G cellphone market and is expected to announce its plans later this year.

A Telecom spokesman said the company has not talked with Econet.

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