Telecom

Uganda Forces Incoming Telecoms Investors To Share Infrastructure

Uganda’s sector regulator has announced that it will force incoming investors in telecommunications services to rent capacity from fibre optic cables that are already existing, rather than lay their own, to lower internet access costs and also to stem infrastructure duplication.
The East African nation’s telecoms industry has attracted foreign investors in recent years thanks to its rapid economic growth, political stability and a young population.

The requirement for sharing infrastructure is part of a new national broadband process that aims to boost efficiency and provide high-speed internet access to the people of Uganda.

The CEO of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), Godfrey Mutabazi told the media that infrastructure sharing was a good idea because if there were already existing cables in a particular area, it would make no sense to duplicate and cause clutter by adding more wires.
 
Mutabazi, however, added that exemptions would be made for investors that are willing to lay cables in sparsely populated rural areas in order to improve the spread of internet access.

According to the government, Uganda has approximately 12,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cable already laid, and new investors will rent the capacity at agreed commercial rates.

Mutabazi mentioned that the laying of separate cables by different firms had increased the costs for the erection and maintenance of infrastructure, high internet costs and under-utilisation of capacity on the cables.

MTN Uganda, the largest telecoms operator, has a cable network that lies next to those of American technology giants Facebook and Google, and Bharti Airtel.

The government also runs a national broadband internet cable network that was developed with a Chinese loan.

UCC said that Uganda has almost 24 million mobile phone subscribers and around 17 million internet users.

Kyle Spencer, the Executive Director of a non-profit organisation that connects data from one operator’s cable to numerous others, Uganda Internet Exchange Point (UIXP), said that the new policy stance was taking Uganda backwards, would create infrastructure monopolies and it would hamper the sector’s development and cut jobs.

He said that bandwidth costs in Uganda had decreased from $5000 per megabyte per second in 2009 to today’s $10 per megabyte per second.

Spencer declared that the old system was not broken and the reason that the price declined was that there had been massive amounts of competition in infrastructure and service.

Credit: This article originated from www.iol.co.za





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