UCC building, Uganda

Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) announced this week it has completed the development and adoption of the framework that will guide national roaming aimed at averting duplication of resources in the provision of broadband services.

“The Commission has successfully concluded the development and adoption of the Guidelines on National Roaming to enable customers to have seamless access and coverage irrespective of their network,” the UCC announced on Twitter on Tuesday. They did not reveal the dates the national roaming services will be rolled out for users in Uganda.

The national roaming guidelines, the UCC said telecom operators are required to offer the national roaming services on their respective networks to the other licensees engaged in the provision of mobile communication services in Uganda.

“The guidelines seek to ensure that roaming between the operators in Uganda takes place on a fair, transparent and economically efficient basis, for the benefit of consumers, operators and the overall economy,” reads part of the guidelines.

Cost implications for operators and consumers

Since plans of national roaming were announced back in 2018 as part of the National Broadband Policy following the approval by the cabinet in Uganda, there has been an outcry over the interconnection charges. Some telecoms subscribers were also concerned that telecoms operators who were net losers in interconnection would shift the cost national roaming to them.

The UCC said telecom operators, after mutually agreeing on pricing, shall file the prices to the Commission for approval.

“The guidelines provide for prices to be set on a cost basis, below retail levels and shall be non-discriminatory,” reads the guidelines. “The Commission shall provide regulatory supervision over roaming arrangements to ensure compliance with the law, regulations, the national roaming guidelines and other regulatory requirements.”

The telecoms players

As of April 2020, the east African nation had 33 telecom operators with their licenses grouped in five categories that include National Telecom Operator, National Public Service Provider, Regional Public Service Provider, National Public Infrastructure Provider, Regional Public Infrastructure Provider, and License to provide Communal Access, according to the UCC.

Major mobile operators in Uganda include MTN Uganda, Airtel Uganda (formerly Zain, Celtel), Uganda Telecom, Africell (Orange Uganda), Smile Communications, Smart Telecom, Sure Telecom, Vodafone Uganda while smaller service providers include K2 Telecom and others.

As of 2015, in terms of network coverage, Airtel Uganda had the most network coverage covering most parts of Uganda followed by other telecoms operators including MTN Uganda, Africell and Vodafone Uganda.

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