Cabinet gives UCC nod to renew MTN licence

Tuesday September 18 2018
tech001 pix

MTN’s licence, which expires in October will be renewed for another 10 years. FILE PHOTO

Kampala. Cabinet has given Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) a go-ahead to renew MTN’s licence for another 10 years.
The telecom giant’s 20-year licence is due to expire next month.
However, MTN and other telecoms must adhere to the new licencing regime that will be guided by the National Broadband Policy, which among others, requires 100 per cent coverage of the country by all telecoms and national roaming.

The National Broadband Policy, according to a Cabinet brief seen by Daily Monitor, will also subject telecoms to other stringent rules such as mandatory listing.
The National Broadband Policy was approved in a Cabinet sitting on Monday chaired by President Museveni.

“Local listing for all telecom operators as a licencing condition will help mitigate capital flight among other benefits of local content development opportunities that come along,” reads in part the Cabinet brief.
The Cabinet resolution comes after Finance Minister Matia Kasaija told participants during the 8th national competitiveness forum that his Ministry would table a policy paper before Cabinet seeking mandatory listing for all telecoms.
MTN had previously told Daily Monitor that they had been, given successful listing of their subsidiaries in Nigeria and Ghana, considering to list the Uganda subsidiary.

However, they did not indicate when they would be listing.
Mr Frank Tumwebaze, the ICT and Information minister, told Daily Monitor yesterday government had consulted telecoms in regard to the creation process of National Broadband Policy.
The policy, he said, was a culmination of global benchmarking to create a sustainable national broadband spectrum.
“It is not for the telecoms to decide. It is a policy meant for the good of the country. However, in this case they were consulted. It is mandatory for them to list because it will be part of the licencing conditions and the reforms,” he said.

Other requirements will include national roaming, national coverage, spectrum management based on the principle ‘use it or lose it’ where a spectrum should not be managed by a private telecom service provider.
In an evaluation report filed by telecom regulator, UCC had noted that whereas MTN had fulfilled much of its licencing requirements over the last 20 years, the telecom had failed to effectively handle inter connection agreements for One Solution, Roke Telecom and Simbanet taking as much as two years and more.

This, Mr Tumwebaze said, informed Cabinet’s decision to pull powers from private service providers and hand spectrum management to government.
Cabinet, he said, also gave a no objection to the extension of MTN licence, a decision that had been informed by UCC’s recommendation.
Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC executive director, yesterday said they had recommended the renewal of MTN’s licence and expect full compliance to some concerns that were raised in the report.
“I have not seen the Cabinet proposal. But if that is what they have passed, then it will be in line with MTN’s wish because they have always wanted their company to be part of Uganda,” he said.
Last year, MTN applied for the renewal of its 20-year licence ahead of the October expiry.

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Mr Val Okecho, the MTN communications manager, yesterday told Daily Monitor that they are currently reviewing and responding to the requirements for extension of the telecom’s license.
“We have made progress in fulfilling most of the requirements while working to meet the rest of the expectations on our part. The process of a licence extension is lengthy that requires discussion on a wider scope,” he said.

Africell speaks

Mr Edgar Karamagi, the Africell public relations manager, said they were yet to receive the Cabinet proposals about the National Broadband Policy.
Under the number portability requirement, subscribers will retain their telephone number even when they have changed network operator.

Key licencing demands

Local listing. All telecom operators will have to list on the Uganda Securities Exchange to mitigate the problem of capital flight. It will also emphasise the development of local content and skills development.

National roaming. All telecom operators will be required to activate national roaming facilities to allow customers access services outside territorial coverage area. It will also allow customers have seamless access and coverage for customers irrespective of their networks.

National coverage. All operators applying for a licence must have 100 per cent coverage of the entire geographical area of Uganda in order to enable universal access, promote competitiveness and quality services.

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