Zambian Business Times
ZICTA fines slapped on telco’s not punitive enough
The Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority - ZICTA last month has handed a blanket fine and penalized all the 3 mobile phone network providers for failing to adhere to the quality of service parameters as outlined in the quality of service guidelines for two consecutive quarters, Q4: 2017 and Q1:2018 respectively.
ZICTA, in an effort to avoid tilting the competition landscape by fining all the three mobile networks AIRTEL, MTN and ZAMTEL a total ZMW12.6million for failing to meet some of the set parameters on quality of service which include call set up success rate, mean opinion’s call, successful sms rate, sms delivery time and http success log ins, http success rate as well as http down rate 2G and 3G.
Some market players have accused ZICTA of failing to set an example as these blanket bans are not punitive enough and targeted enough, as a result, they are not being worked on by the players hence the reason why two consecutive quarters of poor quality of service. It can easily be predicted that Q2: 2018 and remaining quarters will attract more fines. A further review of the blanket fines that have been used now for two years running across the industry, show that none of the players are taking these fines seriously and effectively lessening the intended impact of getting improved service quality by the regulator.
ZICTA fined market leader MTN Zambia limited ZMW3.6million, the second largest player by market share AIRTEL was fined ZMW4.2million while state owned ZAMTEL was slapped with the highest fine of ZMW4.8million.
Last year ZICTA fined all the three mobile phone operators a total of ZMW3.1million for failing to adhere to quality of service parameters as agreed in the quality of service guidelines for Q3: 2017. If a company can pay these fines which are far less than the cost of investment needed to improve service, a capitalistic management would opt to continue paying the fines after all it’s a cheaper option. Suffice to say the regulator is driving the wrong behaviour in the telco’s. These fines should be punitive enough to make the mobile operators opt to spend on capital investment upgrades that should supports service quality once and for all.
The mobile Telco’s market in Zambia is an oligopoly with three (3) players, the fourth player Unitel expected to launch its services before the end of 2018. Zambia data and voice service cost remain among the highest in Africa due to the market structure. Players like South African owned MTN have not adhered to key licensing requirements such as listing on the Lusaka Securities Exchange – LuSE, a matter that ZICTA admitted needs to be regularized. MTN has been in the Zambian market long enough to list which the regulator seems to have exercised immense leniency. This could also be driving the wrong behaviour and must be quickly addressed.
ZICTA can pick a leaf from the quantum of fines that MTN Nigeria was slapped with for failing to adhere to sim card registration requirements at a time when the African populous nation. The slapping of such a fine drove the right behaviour in the West African market. The biggest challenge in the Zambian industry is familiarity with regulators which must not be entertained.