Private Operators to Manage Fibre-Optic Network in Uganda


The Uganda government plans to privatise the management of its fibre optic cable network.

Information and Communication Technology Minister Ham Mulira said a study is being undertaken to establish a private management framework for the communications cable.

"If telecommunications companies could join hands and form a firm to manage the national cable, we would buy the proposal," the minister said.

Kampala's decision is part of the ICT ministry's plans for the next financial year. Mr Mulira has submitted next financial years' proposals to the ICT parliamentary committee for review.

The committee, according to its chairman Edward Baliddawa, will submit approved proposals to President Yoweri Museveni before May.

"The ministry anticipates that it will be through with the stakeholders' consultations and development of the management model by the end of June," he said.

"Thereafter, a firm to manage the network will be identified through an open and international procurement process.

"This process usually takes one month, so a firm to manage the backbone is expected to be in place around the end of July," Mr Mulira told members of parliament.

Kampala's decision to privatise the fibre-optic cable comes as no surprise to the telecommunication firms given that MTN and Uganda Telecom Ltd have already the requisite expertise in fibre cable management.

Prior to the construction of a national cable, the two firms had been separately developing fibre-optic cable networks across the country.

This was part of a policy enshrined in their licences that gave the two companies a five-year duopoly starting in 2000, in which they were required, as national operators, to build communication infrastructure to cover at least 80 per cent of the country.

Uganda Telecom was the first telecommunications company to bring the fibre optic technology to Uganda. The installation of the first fibre optic ring was successfully completed in May 2001.

In March 2002, Uganda Telecom introduced its second self-healing fibre-optic ring. UTL further embarked on a fibre-optic link from the western town of Mbarara in Uganda to the Rwanda border-crossing point at Katuna, giving a major boost to the long-awaited regional fibre-optic project known as the East African Backhaul System.

MTN Uganda, the other partner in the project, has a fibre-optic cable running from Kampala to Uganda's eastern town of Bugiri, not far from Malaba, the crossing point into Kenya.

MTN Rwanda has already laid a cable from the capital Kigali to Katuna, with a second phase to the Burundi border to be built soon.

The EABS, a terrestrial cable link, is a joint venture among telecom operators from Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya.

The East African