Uganda ICT Regulator Compels New Telecoms Investors to Rent Infrastructure

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Uganda’s ICT regulator, the Communications Commission, has directed new players in the telecoms business to rent infrastructure and capacity from existing providers rather than install their own systems. This directive was preceded by the need to avoid duplication of fibre optic cables and cut the cost of internet services for its citizens.

Similar to Kenya’s metrics, Uganda continues to see rapid growth in telecoms due to increased notable growth in mobile and internet services, improved connectivity and fierce competition amongst service providers.

While Kenya’s CA has not been successful in pushing for a similar approach among local telecoms companies for fair competition between small and established businesses, Uganda’s amended national broadband policies allow infrastructure sharing to heighten efficiency and robust internet access for its citizens.

According to Reuters, the country’s regulator says that infrastructure sharing is mandatory especially in areas where cables have already been installed to avoid duplication of infrastructure. However, investors are allowed to lay new infrastructure in remote areas that are poorly served.

Uganda has more than 12,000 kilometres of fibre optic cable that can be rented by new players at select commercial sites. Besides Airtel MTN Uganda, Google and Facebook have laid their own cables in the country too. Also, similar to NOFBI that aims to serve Kenya’s 47 counties sufficiently, the Ugandan government operates national broadband internet cable network.

Duplication of services by different operators have forced them to hike service fees, primarily due to the high cost of maintaining the systems that are, in some cases, massively underutilized.

Lobbyists such as GSM Association have argued that forcing established operators to share infrastructure inhibits gainful competition. Specifically, competition encourages faster and more extensive coverage.

Negotiations processes and the complexities of the matter have stalled so far. In addition, policies based on the Kenya Information and Communications Act, Cap 411A that target to promote fair competition in the provision of telecoms service by operators have not been discussed or made by regulators.

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