Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Batswana get upward and digitally mobile

Botswana has an opportunity to assert herself in the digital space through development of a digitally connected and driven society in 2020.

This may be possible as there was a significant growth in Wi-Fi usage and mobile subscriptions in 2019.

The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) annual report for 2019, showed mobile telephony subscriptions experienced remarkable growth in 2019 particularly mobile networks which have become a necessity in people’s lives as they keep in touch with the world over, run businesses efficiently and enhance the delivery of services in all sectors of the economy.

Consumers continue to own multiple SIM cards from different service providers with reasons ranging from taking advantage of offers available across networks, and access to mobile services in any part of the country.

All the three operators have different competitive advantages to leverage and offer choice to customers. Furthermore mobile telephony increased from 3,181,591 subscriptions in March 2018 to 3,353,337 subscriptions as at March 2019, representing a growth of 5%.

There was also significant growth in Wi-Fi usage by consumers across the 34 strategic public areas from 2015 to 2019. Widely branded as Botswana Hotspots, the project entails provision of high- speed, secure and affordable Wi-Fi to consumers in strategic public areas such as hospitals, shopping malls, bus ranks and airports.

The Universal Access and Service Fund subsidized Botswana Fibre Networks to roll out the wholesale Wi- Fi infrastructure, which is availed to any licensed ISP on non-discriminatory open access basis. The number of Wi-Fi users increased from 23,000 in 2015 to 256,011 in March 2019. A growth of 31% in Wi-Fi usage was recorded between 2018 to 2019.

With BOFINET not licensed to provide service to end consumers, projects such as Fibre To The Home (FTTH) are expected to benefit small and big Internet Service Providers as well as large operators such as BTC, Mascom Wireless and Orange Botswana in that they have the choice to partner with BOFINET and provide the service to the end consumer.

BOCRA director of corporate communications, Aaron Nyelesi, explained: “When exercising that choice, they will have the opportunity to provide their own value added services over the same FTTH facility. For example, internet, gaming, entertainment, voice communications, etc. FTTH brings with it high speed connectivity that has not been available in the older technologies and this factor should be a stimulant for increased demand for the said solution.”

“BOFINET will provide fiber to terminate it in the house. The ISP or public operator will then provider the modem/router and the connection from the terminating unit to the modem/router.  This means that the ISP or public operator takes charge of all dealings with the end consumer,” Nyelesi said.

However for a digitally connected society to be realised, service providers will need to ensure these recurrent problems are not experienced in 2020. The 2019 BOCRA annual showed that complaints received were from Telecommunications and ICT sectors and type of complaints received remained the same as those received over the previous years. They included but were not limited to Billing, Airtime, Internet, Data and Mobile Money Services. Billing complaints generally concerned accuracy of bills for services. Airtime and Data complaints related to perceived disappearance of airtime and misinterpretation of airtime validity period.

Mascom Wireless, with the largest subscriber base, recorded the highest number of complaints with 15 cases registered. Orange Botswana had the second highest number of 13 complaints escalated to BOCRA, while BTC had the least number, with 9 complaints registered. Internet queries were to do with the perceived high cost and slow speed of internet services. Most of the Mobile Money services complaints were to do with the lengthy.

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