Wednesday, November 5, 2008

World Bank urges Zambia to review telecom issues

By Michael Malakata , IDG News Service , 10/10/2008

As Zambia's international gateway issues continue, the World Bank said a review is needed of the problems relating to infrastructure, regulatory and institutional requirements of the telecom industry in order to solve troubles affecting the sector.

The challenges in the telecom sector that Zambia is facing go beyond the issue of the international gateway, according to the World Bank country manager for Zambia, Kapil Kapoor.

"It is unfair to place the blame solely on the international gateway fees as the only hindrance to telecom sector development but to also look at other factors related to infrastructure development, regulatory and institutional requirements," Kapoor said.

The Zambian government has refused to deregulate the country's international gateway, claiming that doing so would put the security of the country at risk.

Private mobile operators Zain Zambia and MTN have been protesting the Zambian government's regulation of the international gateway and the high cost of acquiring a gateway license.

The Ministry of Communications and Transport increased the international gateway fee two months ago from US$12 million to more than $18 million, making Zambia the most expensive country in Eastern and Southern African for private telecom investors to do business.

Private operators in Zambia must route their international calls through the government-owned Zambia Telecommunication Company (Zamtel), which owns and operate the international gateway. However, Zain Zambia and MTN issued a joint statement recently claiming that Zamtel's gateway is experiencing increased failures on international calls.

Both operators have sent letters of complaint regarding the international call failures to Zamtel and the Communications Authority of Zambia.