Tanzania: Connecting through broadband

The telecoms sector has benefited the improved economic performance of the country
Buddecomm, Country profile, Mobile, Mobile money, National ICT Broadband Backbone, Smartphones, Tanzania, Tanzanian regulatory authority, Telecommunications, Telecoms, Devices

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Tanzania has two fixed-line operators (TTCL and Zantel) and eight operational mobile networks, with four additional players licensed under a new converged regulatory regime. With four major operators – Vodacom, Bharti Airtel (formerly Zain), Tigo and Zantel – mobile penetration is approaching 70%, with annual subscriber growth of more than 20%, as Buddecomm reports.

In order to achieve this environment, Tanzania and its telecoms sector went through a transformation lead by the government. “Tanzania is one of the most liberalised markets in Africa,” said Victor Nkya, deputy director zonal coordination at the Tanzanian Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) to CommsMEA.

After the liberalisation plan, the landscape changed completely and small operators, and local investors were able to invest and target specific markets because it is more affordable for them, as Nkya added.

“The government has actively embraced the principles of competition and a private sector including foreign participation as a means of rapidly advancing economic and social development. However, high import tariffs on telecoms equipment and taxes on telephone facilities by various authorities are still placing a burden on investors and operators,” states Buddecom.

In recent years a price war among these players has adversely affected the smaller operators, which have suffered from customer churn.

“In order to encourage operators to improve the quality of service that it is affected by the price war, we are following different strategies. First of all, we have a big problem with interconnection between operators, as the cost was too high. They want to operate and cut the competition. We reduced the interconnection rate 70%,” Nkya said.

The liberalisation of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) telephony as well as the introduction of 3G and 4G mobile services and wireless broadband networks is boosting the internet sector which has been hampered by the low level of development of the traditional fixed-line network.

Regarding 4G, Nkya believes that the market is ready. “It will cover major cities like Dar es Salaam, not every city. It will be extended to other cities. In urban areas you will find 4G, where the demand for data is high. In the rural areas you will not find 4G. We can still provide intent services for 3G network there,” he added.

The lack of ICT infrastructure in both the urban and the rural area attributing limited the access to ICT services, therefore the Tanzanian government started to build the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB) infrastructure.

This approach wants to ensure that ICT is diffused into masses at all levels, enabling maximisation of benefits and welfare to Tanzanian citizens, according to the government. Tanzania considers NICTBB as an important strategic vehicle intended to provide the entire Tanzanian population with reliable, efficient and cost-effective accessibility and connectivity to ICT infrastructures, facilities and services for enhanced socio-economic development as well as creating a knowledge-based society.

“The government had to invest so that the cost of investment was lower for operators. There are places that operators haven’t tried to go because they will not have benefits. Now they can go because we have enabled it, the government has provided the infrastructure,” said Adin K M Mgendi, head of National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB).

However, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has reported in several occasions that some operators are not going to these rural areas as they will not report an abundant increase in their benefits and this organisation has encourage to look for more solutions to connect the unconnected.

Mgendi highlighted that people in the rural areas have a disadvantage as they do not have the “privilege” of ICT. “We have witnessed more projects on the applications side, we have seen more e-health services, e-education and e-government. We want to offer affordable services,” he added.

With the NICTBB, the country wants to make the internet cost affordable. “It is very significant to make this achievement,” Mgendi said to CommsMEA.

NICTBB is managed and operated by the Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) whose main shareholder is the government. The appointment of TTCL took into consideration its facilities, resources and the skilled workforce available countrywide. The NICTBB is operated as a wholesale business that is engaged in lease of capacity to Tanzania’s licensed operators, such as mobile network operators, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), local television and radio stations, Fixed Network, Fixed Wireless, and Voice and Data Service Providers.

Tanzania is also one of the countries in Africa that migrated the digital terrestrial broadcasting service, in the frequency bands 174-230 MHz and 470-862 MHz, indicating the development of all-digital terrestrial broadcast services for sound and television.

In December 2009, the country already completed 90% of the process and they have met the deadline established by the ITU in June 2015.

“The consumer will have to buy the coder and pay for the device and the installation. The devices are tax free for the companies and customers. We have selected five channels that can be watched by the Tanzanians without paying anything. If you want to have more channels, then you will have to pay for that,” Nkya said.

National ICT Broadband Backbone

The National ICT Broadband Backbone is managed and operated by the Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd. (TTCL) on behalf of the government of Tanzania, through the ministry of Communication Science and Technology (MCST)

According to NICTBB, the project helps to fulfil the increasing demands of information services, strengthen competitive abilities of domestic data and voice operators as well as bridging the digital divide.

“It is necessary when developing high speed broadband and it helps to efficiently exploit the benefits from undersea submarine cables landing in Dar es Salaam by providing high quality capacity fibre optic connectivity from Tanzania to within Africa and the rest of the world,” NICTBB states.

Adin K M Mgendi, head of NICTBB said to CommsMEA that the project is redefining everything that the country knows regarding e-government, e-learning, e-health, e-commerce, etc.

He added that Tanzania is situated in a strategic position as it is surrounded by eight countries. “With the backbone we support the submarine cables connections and we are connecting new countries,” he said.

Malawi, Zambia, Ruanda, Uganda, Burundi and RDC (partly) are already connected by the National ICT Broadband Backbone.

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