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COMESA urges governments to subsidise telecoms infrastructure

By , ITWeb’s Zambian correspondent.
Africa , Malawi , 16 Sep 2022

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) said governments should consider subsidising the construction of telecommunications infrastructure to enable mobile network operators to deliver services.

The 21-member regional bloc has expressed concern over the high cost of mobile phone services, including data, among some member countries.

COMESA Director of Infrastructure and Logistics Jean Baptiste Mutabazi said telcos can also co-site their transmitters onto one tower to further reduce cost.

Mutabazi said, “We are currently development some guidelines on infrastructure sharing. These are some of the things we are trying to address. There are actually some countries in the region that have given licences to operators to utilise the same (infrastructure sharing).”

Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) CEO Arnold M’bwana said the company agrees with the idea of infrastructure sharing.

M’bwana said TNM has shared its own infrastructure with other industry players, including ISPs.

He said TNM also uses infrastructure that is owned by other companies in order to provide services to its clients.

M’bwana was quoted by the local Nation newspaper as saying, “For example, TNM now uses over 330 sites or towers previous owned by Airtel Malawi but now managed by Helios plus over 80 sites owned by Malawi Telecommunications Limited, 15 sites owned by Access Communications Limited and four sites owned by Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM). Airtel Malawi also uses over 240 sites owned by TNM and a lot more internet service providers are also using TNM sites to deliver their services. TNM has also established partnerships with international fibre companies to enhance connectivity.”

Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) Director General Daud Suleman said many of COMESA’s suggestions are already being implemented in Malawi and “are working well”.

Suleman added, “The Universal Service Fund (USF) is used in Malawi to largely subsidise the cost of tower investment in areas that may be considered not highly marketable to telecoms or broadcasting companies to rollout their services.”

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