CABI­NET HAS LAST WORD ON MTN’S LI­CENCE

The Uganda Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion has rec­om­mended re­newal, but with con­di­tions like shar­ing of in­fras­truc­ture

The East African - - NEWS - By CHARLES MPAGI The Eastafrican

The fate of MTN Uganda’s application for a 10-year re­newal of its li­cence now lies with the Cabi­net.

The fate of MTN Uganda’s application for a 10-year re­newal of its li­cence now lies with the Cabi­net.

The Uganda Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion (UCC), which con­ducted a pub­lic hear­ing on the li­cence, has rec­om­mended re­newal with some con­di­tions.

The telco had ex­pected word on its application for a 10-year re­newal by May 26 as their cur­rent li­cence ex­pires in Oc­to­ber.

A source at UCC said that the reg­u­la­tor’s fi­nal re­port had been shared with both MTN and the In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Min­is­ter Frank Tumwe­baze. How­ever, Mr Tumwe­baze said he is yet to see the re­port and has asked the UCC for it.

“I wrote to UCC on Tues­day to ask for that re­port,” Mr Tumwe­baze told The Eastafrican in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

He said the Cabi­net has now taken up the mat­ter and will give the fi­nal verdict.

With more than 11 mil­lion sub­scribers out of an es­ti­mated 23 mil­lion, there is lit­tle doubt that MTN’S li­cence will be re­newed, but sources both at UCC and Cabi­net say that the re­newal will come with strin­gent re­quire­ments.

One of the re­quire­ments is that MTN list on the stock ex­change to give Ugan­dans a chance to own a por­tion of a telco that has been raking in hand­some prof­its since its in­cep­tion 20 years ago.

Lo­cal list­ing was one of the de­mands made at a pub­lic hear­ing con­ducted by the UCC in April.

An­other con­di­tion is that MTN and other tel­cos share masts and other in­fras­truc­ture, and have a pres­ence in all parts of the coun­try.

The Cabi­net is also ex­pected to de­mand that the telco guar­an­tee a 4G net­work for ur­ban ar­eas and a 3G one for ru­ral ar­eas through­out the coun­try.

The gov­ern­ment is fi­nal­is­ing a broad­band pol­icy that will fo­cus on ways and means to de­liver In­ter­net cov­er­age to ru­ral ar­eas cheaply, Mr Tumwe­baze said in a sep­a­rate in­ter­view.

“The Cabi­net is de­vel­op­ing se­ri­ous re­forms for the sec­tor,” the source con­firmed.

Fred Otunnu, the se­nior com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer at UCC, said the com­mis­sion had fi­nalised its re­port but de­clined to give de­tails on any new con­di­tions be­ing set for MTN. He con­firmed that the reg­u­la­tor is rec­om­mend­ing re­newal.

A 2015 re­port put MTN ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion with nearly half of all Ugan­dan sub­scribers, at 44 per cent.

In­dian-owned Bharti Air­tel has a 32 per cent share of the mar­ket, fol­lowed by Uganda Tel­coms with eight per cent and Afri­cel at four per cent.

MTN has come un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure lately as the gov­ern­ment seeks to claim a big­ger share of the com­pany’s prof­its.

The gov­ern­ment ac­cused MTN of un­der-declar­ing its call vol­ume. but the biggest area of con­cern has been the run­away suc­cess of MTN Mo­bile Money.

Af­ter in­creas­ing trans­ac­tional taxes in pre­vi­ous years, a new Ex­cise Duty (Amend­ment) Bill passed by par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day im­poses a one per cent tax on ev­ery mo­bile money trans­ac­tion. Ex­cise duty on mo­bile money has been in­creased from 10 to 15 per cent on top of these trans­ac­tional charges.

The gov­ern­ment has tar­geted so­cial me­dia com­mu­ni­ca­tion in its lat­est push to raise more rev­enue, im­pos­ing a Ush200 ($0.05) daily charge on users of so­cial me­dia plat­forms.

Pic­ture: File

Telco MTN has ap­plied for a 10-year li­cence to con­tinue op­er­a­tions in Uganda.

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