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Uganda’s regulator takes telecoms service providers to task

Uganda’s parliament has tasked the country’s industry regulator the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to engage telecommunication service providers in a bid to bolster the quality, reliability and cost of communications services.

This week Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa directed the UCC to engage companies to exclusively provide unlimited data and voice call bundles that do not expire.

“This issue of expiry of data and voice bundles needs to be addressed. How do you tell me that bundles have expired? Technology has no expiry date. In many countries, one is only required to reactivate the bundle; it’s like money on your account where the bank tells you that your account has become dormant, it is then reactivated and you can access your money,” said Tayebwa.

Telecommunication service providers will also be directed to remove interconnection fees which, according to the government, “created unhealthy monopolistic tendencies, making it costly for subscribers to make calls across other networks.”

Kawempe Division South petition

According to information released to the media, the parliamentary discussion was prompted by a report of the Committee on ICT and National Guidance based on a petition of Kawempe Division South constituents “on unsatisfactory and unfair services delivery by telecommunication and television service providers in the country.”

The report presented by the committee chairperson, Moses Magogo, stated that Ugandans continue to pay heavily to access telecommunication services characterised by dropped calls, exorbitant rates on data bundles, unrealistic consumption patterns and expiry of internet bundles, among others.

The committee recommended that the regulatory body “enhances sensitisation of the public on the various data and voice bundles for use and encourage telecom service providers to provide friendlier bundle subscriptions.”

Magogo said, “UCC should also enhance engagements with the telecommunication operators to develop and provide a broad range of bundles that will encourage customers to access internet and call subscriptions.”

Recently, telecommunications operators have come up with a range of pricing packages including time-bound bundles or unlimited bundles that do not expire like the MTN Freedom Bundles, Airtel’s Chillax Bundles and Smile Telecom’s Forever Bundles.

Ibrahim Ssemujju (Kira Municipality) said it is high time government stopped considering access to internet as a luxury, but rather a right.

“Agro-processing, ICT and tourism have been identified by government as key priorities, but ICT sector has been abandoned to private players, that is how we are able to nearly sell all equipment that UTL had to private players,” Ssemujju said.

According to the committee report, poor quality of telecommunications services is as a result of internal and external factors such as caller movements from over served to undeserved areas and unfavourable socio-economic factors, as well as vandalism and theft of communication infrastructure equipment, and unreliable power supply.

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