Ugandan communications industry regulator, Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) has allowed private Internet operators to provide VoIP services in spite of the lack of law legalizing their use, writes Esther Nakkazi.

Up until now the only authorized VoIP service providers in Uganda are the two national operators MTN and UTL whose licenses approved their use. The law legalizing VoIP services in Uganda was supposed to be effected in July last year after the duopoly came to an end but it has since been delayed by the cabinet being slow in approving a new ICT policy that will free the market and allow the use of such services.

“VoIP service is being complicated by the existing policy but we allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to negotiate with national operators to use VoIPs using their networks after mutual understanding,” said Patrick Mwesigwa the Technical Manager UCC during a workshop held at Fairway hotel last week. In other words, ISPs will have to negotiate agreements with existing operators. Up until now UCC would have considered VoIP services as a criminal activity but they have decided to encourage them after being frustrated by lack of approval of the new ICT policy which it is said will probably not be operational until 2010.

Matthew Lorika from the ISP industry said he was providing VoIP service applications and urged other providers to manoeuvre their way through and do the same but decried the lack of collaboration from the two national operators which have been adamant that they will refuse to cooperate. “The national operators are not cooperative. If only they could allow us to interface, because we can ably deploy our technology alongside theirs which would definitely push down costs,” said Lorika. However, an industry stakeholder said the national operators cannot possibly allow that because they have to protect their network investments which cost exorbitant amounts to be put in place.