Tanzania: Sh48 Billion Set Aside for Rural Telecoms

Telecoms

THE government has set aside T48bn/- for low cost telecommunication connections in rural and underserved areas across the country where 152 wards and 1.6 million people have been targeted in the first phase of the programme.

The Universal Communication Access Fund (UCSAF) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Engineer Peter Ulanga, told the 'Daily News' at the weekend that tenders have been floated for a qualified company to supply low cost technologies in the areas.

He said 10 million US dollars (about 15.7bn/-) has been allocated to the 152 wards in various regions, while the rest of the money would be spent on subsequent tenders to be floated between January and May, next year.

The extension of low cost technology connectivity in rural and underserved areas would provide the opportunity for people living there to enjoy the service like their urban counterparts. The Deputy Minister for Communication, Science and Technology, Mr January Makamba, said apart from the need of low cost technologies in rural areas to address communication services, the people there also deserve high quality services.

He said the government has been receiving complaints across the country on the quality of services. "I would like to request the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) to ensure that the quality of services is not compromised in any way," he said. Makamba also warned on high cost of services and terminal devices where the pricing is the same in both urban and rural areas, while there is a big difference in income between people in those areas.

"Technology deployed should bear in mind that people leaving in rural areas have low income which means operators should not expect quick returns but balance their income and continue providing them with services," he said. However, players in the communication sector attribute poor connectivity in the many rural areas to inefficient transport and power infrastructure.

Andrew Dymond, a communication expert, said many telecom firms shun operating in rural areas due to poor financial sustainability. UCAF which was established in 2006 is tasked to make sure low cost communication is connected to rural and underserved areas.

According to the Fund, ICT revenue in the country stand at over T1.6 tril/- a year, while over 5 million people have no access to telecommunication. TCRA statistics show that as at March, this year, there were 12 million phone subscribers in Tanzania.