Members of Parliament of Uganda have urged telecom companies to use more consumer-friendly voice and data bundles.
The MPs claim that this will ensure that customers of communication services receive high-quality, dependable, and reasonably priced communication services to increase the penetration of information and communication technology (ICT) as a major engine of economic growth.
On Wednesday, July 13, 2022, as he presided over the House, Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa gave the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC), the country’s regulatory body for the communications industry, the task of contracting with these businesses solely to provide unlimited data and voice call bundles that never expire.
“This issue of expiry of data and voice bundles needs to be addressed. How do you tell me that bundles have expired? Technology has no expiry date. In many countries, one is only required to reactivate the bundle; it’s like money on your account where the bank tells you that your account has become dormant, it is then reactivated and you can access your money,” Tayebwa said.
Additionally, he urged UCC to order telecom service providers to stop charging interconnection fees, which have led to unfavourable monopolistic tendencies and made it expensive for consumers to call other networks.
The report of the Committee on ICT and National Guidance on the petition of Kawempe Division South constituents on the country’s telecommunication and television service providers’ poor and unfair service delivery practises served as the basis for the discussion.
Ugandans continue to pay a high price to access telecommunication services that are characterised by dropped calls, exorbitant rates for data bundles, unrealistic consumption patterns, and expiration of internet bundles, among other things, according to the report presented by the committee chairperson, Hon. Moses Magogo.
In their findings, the committee advised that the regulatory body increase public awareness of the many data and phone bundles available for use and urge telecom service providers to offer more palatable bundle subscriptions.
“UCC should also enhance engagements with the telecommunication operators to develop and provide a broad range of bundles that will encourage customers to access internet and call subscriptions,” Magogo said.
The MTN Freedom Bundles, Airtel’s Chillax Bundles, and Smile Telecom’s Forever Bundles are just a few of the pricing options that telecom carriers have recently introduced to provide customers a choice between limited-time bundles and limitless bundles that never expire.
The implementation of the government’s new curriculum in secondary schools, according to Napak district Woman MP, Hon. Faith Nakut, has been impeded by a shortage of easily accessible, reasonably priced internet.
“Secondary schools are implementing a curriculum that requires students to do research, but access to internet data is still limited. How are we managing these children? The Ministry of ICT should negotiate for lower internet rates for our children in schools especially those in rural schools,” Nakut said.
Hon. Ibrahim Ssemujju (Kira Municipality) said it is high time government stopped considering access to internet as a luxury, but rather a right.
“Agro-processing, ICT and tourism have been identified by government as key priorities, but ICT sector has been abandoned to private players, that is how we are able to nearly sell all equipment that UTL had to private players,” Ssemujju said.
With regard to cyber security, Hon. Joyce Acan (Persons with Disabilities) expressed worry about the dishonest individuals who switch customers’ sim cards and use them for shady and horrible crimes.
The fraud in the mobile money industry, according to Hon. Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central Division), is the result of weaknesses in the cyber security industry.
“The cloning of sim cards is done technically from the devices. Each device has the International Mobile Equipment Identification number (IMEI) and if someone gets into your IMEI and into your Integrated Circuit Card ID then they will clone your sim card without having it; they become men in the middle and can intercept all your phone calls,” Nsereko said.
The committee study states that poor telecom service quality is a result of both internal and external causes, including caller moves from areas that are overserved to places that are underserved and unfavourable socioeconomic circumstances.
The research also blamed the country’s low service quality on theft and vandalism of communication infrastructure equipment, a sporadic power supply, particularly in rural regions, and the nation’s biggest energy distributor (umeme).
The committee proposed that a billing policy be issued for television service providers to control the payment structure and guarantee that pay TV subscribers only pay for the time and material they are viewing.