You have a debtor, it is time for them to pay, you pick up your mobile phone dial the number and the most annoying automatic response comes on; ‘Sorry, the number you are calling is not available.’
Upset you hang up and redial, same message, now you are really getting mad, you hang up redial and voilà! You are connected. You exchange a barrage of why are you switching off your phone, they reply no, my phone was on, you finally settle on, it must be bad network!
Well here is some good news, finally the telecomm services watchdog, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has taken note of this poor service ordeal and taken action.
Six telecoms fined for poor service delivery
Six major mobile phone operators have been slapped fines reaching a grand total of USD16.4 million for what authorities describe as ‘violation of the quality of services.’
However, in an interesting turn of events, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has not taken the fines into its own needy coffers, but instead, the authority will have the six giant telecomm companies the likes of Tigo, Airtel and Vodacom, all international giants, invest the millions of dollars in improving the quality of their services.
“TCRA has decided that instead of the telecos paying the money to the authority, they should direct it (back) to service providers. Each service provider should use the amount they are required to pay to invest in improving the service,” ordered TCRA Director General James Kilaba.
The regulator has issued an ultimatum of 3 months (90 days) for the telecomm companies to comply or face stringent measures.
In this unfolding ‘poor service saga’ the TCRA has fined Tigo USD5.6 million, Airtel $5 million, Vodacom usd3.4 million, Halotel USD1.5 million, TTCL usd0.5 million) and Zantel USD0.4 million.
What exactly does TCRA mean by ‘poor service’?
The TCRA Director General explains quiet bluntly, “…the authority has assessed the quality of the telecommunications services in the last quarter of 2020 and found that the operators did not meet the quality threshold in line with the 2018 service standards” he told local media.
According to a TCRA statement on the same, the assessment of the firms’ operations was done during October to December in 2020 in various regions across the country. It is this assessment that led to the decision that the telecom companies service standards are not to par and are poor.
So what exactly did the service quality assessment look at or what are the considerations that were taken into account that eventually brought the telecom service watchdog to issue the warning and subsequent directives?
TCRA’s assessment took the following into consideration, first it was network availability, then came call connection failure rate, that was followed by the call drop rate, another aspect that was considered was the call setup time, yet another consideration was the service coverage and finally TCRA looked at the call success rate.
Based on these six key aspects, TCRA concluded that these international and multinational telecom conglomerates, giants of the industry, were simply not meeting the set service standards. In other words, they are offering the public poor services yet charging huge fees for the same.
In accordance with Article 20 of the Code of Conduct for Communications Services, he elaborated further, a service provider that does not meet the set quality service standards is warrant to a fine.
Further still, in its statement that issued the directives, TCRA said any mobile phone operator that breached the directive on improving their service delivery will face legal action. It is yet to be seen how the telecoms will react.
Will the next time you get the auto reply ‘Sorry, the number you are calling is not available’ be just poor service or if the telecoms comply, your debtor really has switched of their phone? Until then we will keep guessing and recalling and recalling, until we get connected.