Editor's Comment

Keep telecom lines open

MANY people in Zambia subscribe to more than one of the three Mobile Network Operators (MNO).
For some, this could be because of prestige, but for most, this is out of the necessity to ensure that they are able to communicate at all times. This is because there are times when one provider fails to provide the service and so one turns to the other.
There are instances when the one mobile network is clogged to an extent that it is virtually impossible to communicate within the same network.
Yet, at times it is easier to communicate via cross networks but at a higher costdue to the variance in tariffs. Despite this, the quality of connectivity is sometimes short of expectations.
This can be frustrating given the dependency on mobile phone communication in this fast-paced world.
As most financial transactions and various services are moving onto online, and people have to do business or access these services on the go, a mobile network system has become a necessity.
Given the shortcomings the MNOs subject clients to, Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) has fined the country’s three MNOs for failure to adhere to the quality of service (QoS) guidelines.
ZICTA manager corporate communications Ngabo Nankonde said yesterday, Airtel Networks Zambia Plc, Zamtel Limited and MTN Zambia Limited will pay a total of K5.4 million for failure to adhere to guidelines issued by the regulator in April and June 2020.
The three MNOs had 17.9 million subscribers at the end of June, 2020. The growth in mobile network subscriptions represents an improvement in the mobile penetration rate, defined as the ratio of the total number of active subscriptions to the total population, from 93.8 percent recorded at the end of June 2019 to 100.2 percent recorded at the end of June 2020.
This performance is mainly explained by increased investments in telecommunication coverage infrastructure, heightened competition among the service providers and the increased adoption of machine to machine (M2M) services such as point of sale machines and other data-enabled devices that utilise SIM cards.
The increased uptake of ICT services among both corporate and individual customers during the COVID-19 pandemic also complemented this surge in adoption.
Since the emergence of the mobile technology, mobile phones are being adapted for efficient delivery of both social and economic services which are efficient and have wider reach without needing physical movement of human and material resources needed to deliver the services.
Health experts in a bigger facility would still work with their colleagues in a rural facility to deliver quality medical operation through tele-medicine. A farmer in a rural area would not need to move with his cash over a long distance to pay a supplier of fertiliser and other inputs, as this can easily be done using the service mobile money transactions.
It is not only that, workers in development fields have become heavily reliant on mobile phones to correspond over work-related tasks and complete them online without physical movement.
As the country wants to fully appreciate the benefits of tele-medicine, financial inclusion of the unbanked rural populations and encourage services, such as extension work instructions being delivered online, it is important to have a near, flawless mobile network system in the country.
People’s daily lives, health, work and economic activities have become reliant on these online services so much so that a disruption in the network derails everything.
Poor mobile network can cause a delay in the delivery of key information that a remote based doctor would need to carry out a surgery on a patient to a life.
It would also mean a delay in completing tasks and submission of reports on which decisions need to be made.
Time is money. Any delay to make a money transaction online could mean delayed completion of, say, a supply deal. This is bad for business.
In the wake of COVID-19, there is an increase in online communication and interaction in all sectors of the economy.
Given the increased importance of mobile network connectivity, MNOs should work on sealing these loopholes.
ZICTA, as the regulator, should continue working with MNOs to ensure improved services, especially that Government is rolling out thousands of communication towers countrywide.

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