“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory” says German philosopher Friedrich Engels.
And so we, team members of Africa C, recently took our ton of theory, much of which we collected from our IGCBP10 classroom lecture texts, resources and hypertexts, and applied our ounce of action to an issue raised in class by one of our colleagues with regards to her country’s experience on ISP licences... a tangible experience which other countries may come to face.
We asked ourselves (and each other): Imagine you are the chief ICT Advisor for your government. Your Minister/Head tells you, "Given the geographic and population size of our country, we may have to suspend telecommunication licenses to avoid unnecessary duplication of infrastructure and a waste of scarce financial resources which can be diverted to other types of infrastructure." You know that while on one hand, more licences mean more competition and benefits in general, the country's current situation calls for stringent measures. In the face of such a dilemma, what would your advice be?
Several “chief ICT advisors” from Africa C shared their perspectives (for ease of reading, the comments below are enumerated):
(NB - I take the opportunity to publicly thank the team members of Africa C (IGCBP10) who took the time to think about this case-study, and who took great interest in sharing their perspectives. The "advice" they offered is also proof of their commitment to the course and to Africa C... keep it up!)
I can advise our minister/our head to promote the idea of infrastructure sharing between the current licensees and this concept can provide our environment with following benefits:
- Development of the telecommunications infrastructure
- Lower the prices of the services
- Promote the competition, transparency, efficiency, non-discrimination and independence.
Firstly I would advise my government to come up with an independent body that should regulate and award licenses to qualified operators based on merit because that directive can come as a tool to victimize a certain grouping of people. On duplication of Telecommunication infrastructure I would advise the government through the regulator to encourage co allocating of infrastructures like towers, control rooms and many more; secondly I would advise my government that having more players in the Telecommunication sector(fields) will lead to improved service delivery and lower down the costs of services since there will be increased competition as such more remote areas that proved in accessible will be connected since each and every company will strive to increases coverage which is direct proportional to number of customers. Having more players(companies) will create job opportunities to people and also increase the countries Tax revenues.
Like <Africa C team member> says, a strong regulator would be needed. I would advise for good regulation and enforcement of service providers, if suspension goes ahead. Agreements with service providers would need to be made with consumers and access for all in mind. Access would cover both the cost of access and the reach of access. Government may also have to empower consumer protection bodies to ensure they bring out consumer issues that need to be addressed.
I think the whole idea of limiting the telecommunications infrastructure itself is noble so that investments in other areas can grow. The idea now will be to have two telecommunications operators each with its own infrastructure. After setting this limit, any new operator will have to share (the sharing can be determined by the parties involved, either leasing the equipment or paying for the maintenance of certain specified infrastructure in other areas- these should be specified in the telecommunications regulations policies, which should also regulate the pricing for the sharing of this infrastructure). This arrangement makes everyone responsible for the infrastructure and because there are two sets of infrastructure, if one goes down, there is a backup and it is up to the owners of the infrastructure to decide how the billing for the temporary leasing of the backup infrastructure. I am thinking this way because i believe a government should take some responsibility for the continuous availability of telecommunications for its citizens. This way new players can enter the market and ride on the existing infrastructure and I also think the competition will still exist and good service delivery is possible with a regulatory authority that has a good enforcement framework.
Maybe a public infrastructure provider can be licensed. They would not provide voice or data services to the public. They would be there to provider infrastructure to those providing the voice and data. It may make it easier for players who have to share / lease equipment to get a better / more level playing field than if the operator who owns the infrastructure leases it out.
First and foremost, when planning services in telecomms it should be possible to envision a scenario of type of infrastructure required and how many players would competitively meet the needs and demands of a given population. This would guide on licenses to be given for what infrastructure and geographical coverage of the country to avoid ‘saturation’ that leads to duplication and eventual suspension of licenses. Government should ensure that infrastructure and services are spread to remote parts for benefit of all citizens. Then a government regulator would see to it that there is fair competition and also quality and affordable service to the consumers.