Tanzania Telecommunications at World Telecommunications Policy Forum

At the recent World Telecommunications Policy Forum (WTPF) that was held in Lisbon, Portugal between April 21 and 24, Tanzania’s current Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Prof. Peter Msolla, spoke to the members concerning the history, development and current needs of the Tanzania telecommunications sector.

According to Prof. Msolla, since the initial liberalization of the ICT sector in Tanzania in 1992, the country has worked very hard to keep abreast with the constant developments that are developing in the ICT industry.

“We all acknowledge that the speed of technological evolution in the ICTs sector worldwide is so high that without adequate preparation it may not be easy to cope with,” said Prof. Msolla in his statement to the WTPF members, “It is on this background that Tanzania has always strived to keep abreast with developments taking place in the ICTs industry by putting in place appropriate policies, legal and regulatory frameworks in order to facilitate harnessing of new technologies with the objective of enhancing socio-economic and political development.”

To this end, Prof. Msolla went on to discuss the country’s current National ICT policy, which strives to provide a national framework to facilitate the contribution by ICTs to the success of the country’s overall national development goal as well as helping to transform the country into a knowledge-based society through the application of ICTs.

According to Prof. Msolla, the policy is also in line with the country’s vision 2025; however, in order for it to be effective, a strong regulator in terms of knowledge and equipment will be necessary in order to enforce both the policy itself as well as the applicable laws.

Prof. Msolla went on to say that as a result of a technological, market and regulatory trend known as convergence, policy-makers and regulators all over the world have begun reconsidering their basic principles of electronic communication regulation, licensing and spectrum management.

“In fact, a number of countries if not all, have no choice but to re-vamp their licensing and regulatory frameworks,” said Prof. Msolla, “The goal is to better provide affordable access to the entire range of communication services from voice to high-speed Internet access to as many people as possible.”

Following the expiration of the exclusivity rights to the Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL), this convergence policy became a reality in Tanzania when it became one of few African countries to liberalize fully its communication sector.

Since then, the new Converged licensing framework has been used as a key strategy to implement the full liberalization policy.

According to Prof. Msolla, this new policy has had remarkable results in advancing the country towards the full liberalization of the ICT sector.

“Before the introduction of the converged licensing framework, provision of mobile services was restricted to GSM technology whose capacity in terms of coverage is limited,” he said, “However, under the converged framework new technologies including CDMA and WIMAX have been introduced.”

Prof. Msolla went on to say that, in addition to providing wider coverage, these advances have also helped to reduce the overall cost of the network development.

Looking forward to the future, Prof. Msolla highlighted some of the challenges that face the Tanzania ICT sector, including the need to develop a National ICT backbone as well regional and international connectivity; the implementation of Analogue to Digital Broadcasting, with the switchover taking place by 2015; the preparation for Universal Communications Access Fund (UCAF) to become operational; the need to increase the level of competition for Number Portability; Consumer Awareness and Education; and an increased demand for Frequency Spectrum.

In order to meet these needs, Prof. Msolla said that the regulator authority will continue to receive government support.

“The Government will continue encouraging the regulatory authority to be innovative in order to ensure that the universal service goal is achieved,” said the Minister.