Telecommunications terrain needs refining

Recently, two separate news stories relating to the telecommunications sector caught my eye. First was on concerns raised by some legislators regarding poor network signal and interference by foreign operators, especially in border districts.

Second was a story in Business News section of The Nation on December 13 2017 under the headline ‘Players ask Macra to address communication barriers’.

Briefly, the second story, quoting a presentation by TNM Plc head of radio access network Jonathan Pinifolo, highlighted stumbling blocks in the digital age, including scarcity of spectrum, regulatory frameworks, cost of doing business, affordability and proliferation of information and communications technology (ICT) services in rural areas.

There is nothing frustrating to a consumer than paying premium rates for a service that does not match the cost. Despite network operators claiming to boost their infrastructure to improve service delivery, dropped calls—ma foni ongoduka nkhani zili mkati ngakhale ma units alimo—continue to be the order of the day. The situation is worse in rural areas where data services are either irritatingly slow or simply do not exist.

Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra), as a regulator, should up its game and ensure that the terrain is improved and consumers get their money’s worth.

From the presentation by Pinifolo, it is clear that operators are making efforts to give quality service. However, there is a limit in terms of how far they can go.

Macra, from the look of things, seems to be developing or have ‘scores’ of strategies and consultancy reports geared at improving the operating environment. However, the question that comes to mind is when or where are such strategies being rolled out or implemented? Or, is Macra sailing in the same ‘Malawian boat’ that lets good policies gather dust on book shelves?

Every time one travels between Blantyre and Lilongwe through Ntcheu and Dedza districts, they get text messages from Mozambican mobile network operators welcoming them to “roaming services”. It is also a similar case in Mchinji and parts of Mzimba such as Euthini where Zambian operators send similar messages.

This has been going on for some time now. Can something not be done to minimise or end such interference?

In this day and digital age, should consumers continue climbing trees and higher grounds to search for network signal? I believe all is not lost and something can be done. This has to be done sooner than later.

The researches and policies Macra and its partners have been developing and continue to develop should be rolled out in earnest to see to it that players offer quality and affordable services to the consumers.

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