By Felix Oketcho
Ministry of ICT has renewed MTN Uganda license however ordered it to list on the local Uganda stock market to enable Ugandans buy shares to core own the company.
ICT Minister Frank Tumwebaze announced the development while briefing journalist at government media centre on Tuesday.
“Cabinet gave me a go ahead to give a no objection to UCC to renew the license of Mtn Uganda with new stringent terms in pursuit of the Broadband Policy Goals.”Tumwebaze said.
MTN, whose 20-year license is expected to expire on October 20, 2018, has in recent years been accused of falling short on quality of service and non-compliance with regulations set by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).
It was noted that “when the then Minister of Works and Communications issued the first license to MTN in 1998, the challenges then were different. The concern then was more about telephony penetration which MTN and other operators helped to achieve.”
The Minister explained that the licensing conditions then were not “stringent enough about the quality of service obligations as demand and uptake of voice and data service was low. The concerns of today are mainly about reliability and affordability of services.
The ICT Minister however says some of the licensing conditions set for all telecom service providers including MTN will be changed requiring them to have national coverage – whereby every operator must be able to cover the entire geographical place of Uganda so as to enable universal access, promote effective competition and quality of service.
At its sitting on Monday, Cabinet also decided that private telecoms should not own the spectrum as it’s a finite and scarce government resource that needs to be managed and utilized efficiently, optimally and rationally.
He said this is also intended to outlaw hoarding of spectrum and enable realization of economic value of the spectrum through re-farming.
According to Tumwebaze MTN, just like other telecoms, will ensure that customers are able to switch from one service provider to another without changing the telephone numbers.
Tumwebaze said this is aimed at empowering customers to choose their service provider without the challenge of changing telephone numbers.
Experts say capital flight is eroding the benefits of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Uganda.
Whereas Uganda is one of the countries which have registered the highest FDI on the African continent since the 1990s, there is little to show for it.
MTN apparently prefers a phased approach under which it would first bring Ugandan pension funds on board through a private share offer, before eventually opening up through an IPO.
The telecom is also expected to list in Ghana and Nigeria.
Commenting about the development UCC boss Godfrey Mutabaazi said in their evaluation of MTN’s performance and assessment noted that MTN was performing well and fulfilled the requirement to license renewal.
“MTN had by the end of the first five years duly complied with the financial and legal obligations ad covered most of the technical obligations,”he said.
“MTN has largely provided uninterrupted telecommunications services during the course of its license in accordance with the laws of Uganda,” Mutabaazi added.