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Date:05/04/12

Argentina to fine Telefonica for wireless service outage

Argentina's government said Tuesday it will fine the local wireless unit of Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica SA due to technical problems that left more than 16 million clients without phone and data service for several hours.

The head of Argentina's federal communications regulator, Ceferino Namuncura, said his agency will "impose the highest fines" and require Telefonica to compensate consumers for the service outage on Monday.

"It worries us a lot at a time when companies, especially Movistar [Telefonica], are very profitable and which we understand should be offering excellent service. That profitability allows them to make the investments that the government and consumers demand," he said in a televised press conference.

Telefonica Argentina, which provides wireless service under the brand Movistar, said in a statement that it will reimburse its clients and offer free text messaging during the four-day Easter weekend.

Telefonica's nationwide wireless network was down for hours Monday morning and early afternoon, which disconcerted many users in a country that boasts one of the highest rates of mobile-phone ownership in the world.

"In this case it was a software problem," Namuncura said.Namuncura said Telefonica's network problem had nothing to do with the ongoing implementation of number portability, which allows consumers to keep their phone number when they change telecommunications provider.

"Movistar continues to study the causes of this extraordinary incident," the company said.
Argentina has about 55 million wireless subscribers in a country of almost 41 million people.
Telefonica ranked No. 3 in the country's wireless industry at the end of last year, with 16.8 million users.




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