Beeline Remains Disconnected As Telecom Operators Maintain Boycott

VimpelCom, a major telecom firm operating under the Beeline brand name, yesterday tried to resume connections with other telecom networks in Laos but failed to do so.

Management from the Lao-Russian joint venture yesterday met with top officials from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications in Vientiane, hoping to seek assistance from telecom authorities to enable Beeline subscribers to connect with the Lao Telecom, Telecom Lao and Star Telecom networks.

The ministry was unable to remedy the situation but will hold an urgent meeting with the four telecom operators today to address the issue, according to undisclosed sources within the telecom sector.

The failed connection has had a serious impact on all mobile phone users, who have been unable to contact Beeline subscribers.

VimpelCom declined to comment on the situation when contacted by Vientiane Times , saying only the company was doing its best to resolve the problem.

“Sorry that we can’t give any detail on this as now we are waiting for an answer/decision from the ministry,” VimpelCom said in an email to Vientiane Times yesterday.

According to telecom officials, Lao Telecom, Telecom Lao and Star Telecom are expected to resume connections with Beeline today. Subscribers to the three companies have also been affected as they are unable to contact Beeline’s customers.

Lao Telecom, Telecom Lao and Star Telecom froze their connection with VimpelCom last week in a move intended to press the company to withdraw a free call promotion that it launched last week.

They believe the promotion reneges on a previous agreement reached by all Lao telecom operators to stop offering such promotions.

According to telecom officials, the four operators agreed on October 6 to stop offering promotions such as free SMS and call time in accordance with a notice issued by the ministry but VimpelCom had failed to abide by the agreement.

VimpelCom launched a major marketing campaign during the Vientiane Boat Racing Festival last week, offering additional free call time and internet services.

The promotion was part of the company’s marketing plan to ensure a smooth transition from Tigo to the Beeline brand name.

VimpelCom paid about US$65 million for shares in Millicom and US$23 million for the repayment of debt, shareholder loans and intercompany debt to acquire 78 percent of Millicom Lao from Millicom International Cellular. The remaining shares are held by the Lao government.

The decision by the Russian firm to buy a controlling interest in Millicom Lao was part of its plan to expand its operations in Indochina. The company already has telecommunications operations under the Beeline brand in Vietnam.

VimpelCom is one of the largest global integrated telecommunications services operators, offering a wide range of wireless telecommunications services and fixed broadband in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Algeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Italy and Canada.

Source: Vientiane Times

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