Zambia offers unified telecom licenses

Telecoms

Zambia has joined several countries in the eastern and southern African region in offering unified licenses to cater to diverse telecommunications services in a bid to attract international service providers and develop the telecom sector.

The country joins Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and South Africa in providing one license for an array of services including Internet and mobile telephony. Several international service providers feared investing in the country because of restrictive license conditions.

Zambian Minister of Communication and Transport Geoffrey Lungwangwa said in Parliament last week that the country’s new telecom bill, which provides for the unified license, will attract foreign investment in the telecom sector and will protect the rights and interests of service providers and consumers.

Among the things the bill is seeking to accomplish is the promotion of competition and efficiency among service providers, research, ICT equipment manufacturing and the use of new technologies including 3G services and WiMax.

Several African countries are now focusing on the provision of data, Internet backbone and video conferencing in addition to voice services through harmonization of license procedures.

"The bill is seeking legal framework on how to develop and sustain effective communication and social development," Lungwangwa said. Lungwangwa said the enhancement of communications would help stimulate development in various sectors such as e-health, education and governance.

The new bill gives power to the Communications of Zambia, which will now be called the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA), to regulate tariffs for dominant service providers and agreements on interconnection fees.

The new law also stops the Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel), the government incumbent from restricting competition through over-charging for interconnection fees and access agreements.

Zamtel owns the Mwembeshi Satellite Earth Station, which provides an international gateway to private service providers Zain and MTN. Zamtel forms interconnection agreements with these providers for them to route their international calls. The interconnection agreements and international gateway charges will now be done by ZICTA on a nondiscriminatory basis and will penalize any service provider for using unapproved tariffs.

Computerworld Zambia