Macra probing mobile communications costs

Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has hired a consultant to analyse the real cost of mobile communication in the country following an outcry from the public over high tariffs.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) also established in a study that Malawi has one of the highest rates of mobile tariffs in the world.

In response to queries from members of Parliament (MPs) on what Macra was doing about public perceptions that making calls and using data were too exorbitant in Malawi, the regulator’s acting director of telecommunications Henry Silika told the Media and Communications Committee of Parliament that within nine months, the country will know the real cost of mobile communication.
He said: “We have hired a consultant who will tell us how much it really costs to make a call, send a short message and data. We have had the first meeting [with the consultant] and we are getting information from the operators.”

Silika gave an example of neighbouring Tanzania where a similar exercise was conducted and resulted in the regulator agreeing with operators to gradually reduce charges.
He said mobile operators have argued that discounted charges calculated based on the area the subscriber is making the call from have made it possible for tariffs to be low.
In its 2015 study, the ITU established that on average, Malawians use more than $12 a month on airtime for mobile phones, eating up 56.29 percent of people’s average monthly earnings.
Speaking in an interview after the appearance before the committee, Macra director-general Godfrey Itaye confirmed that the analysis would look at the cost of doing business in the mobile services sector.

During the meeting, Macra also told the committee that the World Bank is assisting them to identify a consultant to advise on how to implement various components of the recently passed Communications Act and E-Transactions Act set to become operational by May 1 2017.
The Communications Act has introduced a new licensing structure for broadcasters and other telecommunications players with the new licenses expected to be operational by July 1, 2017.
Under the E-Transactions Act, cyber inspectors will be introduced who will have the power to, among other duties, monitor and inspect any website or activity on an information system in the public domain and report any unlawful activity to the regulator.

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