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News 22 Jun 15

Kosovo Pays Dear for Logjam Over Phone Code

The continued inability of Pristina and Belgrade to agree on a separate country dialling code for Kosovo is costing Kosovo a good deal of money.

Una Hajdar

Kosovo's inability to obtain its own international telephone prefix has cost it around 65 million euro so far, as it remains obliged to pay companies in Monaco and Slovenia to borrow use of their country codes.

"Owing to the lack of a telephone code, the Post and Telecom of Kosovo, PTK, has had to pay Monaco Telecom around 48 million euro for the cellphone code, just for the numeration tax," Arsim Bilalli, of the PTK, said.

"An additional 17 million is spent yearly on technical assistance, traffic costs, roaming, signalization and top-up cards," Halili added, bringing the total cost up to around 65 million.

Monaco Telecom has been a mobile provider for Kosovo since the 1999 conflict. The network started up during the UN administration of Kosovo and continues to this day.

Every time someone calls a Vala cellphone number internationally, they use +377, the dialing code of Moncao. Vala is managed by the government-owned PTK.

Slovenian Telecom is the second mobile operator in the country. Kosovars with an IPKO network phone thus use +386, Slovenia's dialing code.

Under an agreement reached on September 8, 2013, Kosovo was supposed to be allocated its own three-digit code from the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, by January 2015.

According to this agreement, a full license for fixed telecommunications would be issued to a subsidiary of a Serbian company, and for all operators to use the dialing the code.

Earlier this week, Kosovo's Minister for Dialogue and the head of the Kosovo technical teams in Brussels, Edita Tahiri, said Kosovo would be receiving its own country code, +383, by the end of the year. According to Tahiri, Austria would apply for Kosovo's code at the ITU.

But the head of the Serbian Government's Office for Kosovo, Marko Djuric, has said this is impossible without Serbia's consent.

"Kosovo cannot get an international dialing number without Serbia’s consent, according to the rules of the ITU. The ITU does not recognize Kosovo as a separate entity outside Serbia," Djuric asserted.

It remains unclear therefore when a final agreement will be reached.

Telekom Srbije has only limited coverage in Kosovo, with its distributors functioning only in Serbian-majority areas and enclaves.

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