Tanzania - Phone firms taken to task over poor quality service


With customers of mobile phone operators having to endure a torrid experience due to poor quality of telephony communication, the government now wants service providers to connect to the national ICT backbone. According to the minister for Communication, Science and Technology, Prof Makame Mbarawa, the move along with upgrading infrastructure by the service providers would help reduce the shortcomings.

In an exclusive interview with The Citizen on Sunday, Prof Mbarawa, expressed the government concerns that some of the mobile phone operators in the country had their infrastructure overwhelmed by the surging number of subscribers.

“Customers experience frequent interruptions, jams and poor voice service. When a subscriber decides to use his phone, he does not want to be inconvenienced,” he said. However, the minister also conceded to the fact that the optic fibre, which is to facilitate the broadband services, had not reached every major urban centre in the country, adding that once this is completed, some of the current problems would be dealt with.

Asked whether there was regular quality control by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) the way other nations like Uganda and Ghana were doing, Prof Mbarawa - without saying when was the last time such a measure was done – responded in the affirmative.

“That’s one of their chief responsibilities. It also advises service providers on the measures to take whenever there is sort of a breakdown,” he said.Increasing operation snags in the country’s communication sector, just like in many African countries, deny customers optimal value for their money.  Reports put the figure of cell phone subscriptions in the continent at well above 500 million.

Countries like Ghana and Uganda have not only been undertaking quality audits of mobile networks but also take stern measures against operators found providing poor services in the highly lucrative business.

In Uganda recently, the state minister for ICT, Mr Nyombi Thembo, said it was defeatist for mobile phone operators to introduce new services into the market before perfecting the existing ones. According to him, there were concerns over deterioration of quality of service in the telecom industry, hence the need to fix the problems sooner than later.

Late last year, the sectoral regulator in Ghana fined five mobile telephone operators a total of $751,990 (about Sh1.18 billion) for providing poor services to the country’s 24 million subscribers. This happened last year.  Four of the five firms have affiliations with similar service providers in Tanzania. Among the offences included dropped calls, bad network coverage, and excessive charges among other things.