What are the roles and responsibilities of the TCRA?
NKOMA: Actually, our model is creating a level playing field, so we ensure that, in terms of provision of the licenses. On the question of the institutional arrangements, I think there are three major participants. You have the government through the Ministry of Communications, Science, and Technology. Then you have the operators. This is where there's a lot of competition in terms of the telecom operators, broadcasting operators, internet service providers, post operators; and then you have the consumers. These are very important. For the regulator, it's really about playing a balancing act between the aspirations of government, the operators, and the consumers. As you know, the operators invest a lot of money in this industry but then of course, they also expect a reasonable return on investment. The consumers expect services which are top-notch, but at a very affordable price. And then the government obviously wants to ensure that you have these services both in urban and rural areas. So the regulator has to be the catalyst in ensuring all these three major stakeholders benefit from the sector.
What are the TCRA’s policy priorities at the moment?
NKOMA: Benchmarking; we would like to get some of the best practices and where the communications sector is going. In telecoms, you have the networks, 3G and 4G networks. In broadcasting, there's the general movement towards digital. So I think as a regulatory body here, we learn some of the best practices and then see how we can actually take some of those ideas and implement them at home.
What are the biggest challenges you face today?
NKOMA: We have a number of challenges. Quality of service is a big issue. We want to make sure we work with the networks to ensure that the quality of service gets even better and better. A related issue is standards of equipment, like what kind of telephones are used in Tanzania, what kind of set-top boxes are used in Tanzania. So the enforcement of quality of service standards is going to be very important.
How competitive are Tanzania’s telecommunications and broadcasting sectors?
NKOMA: They're very competitive. In fact, as a regulatory body, it is our major function to manage competition. So in telecommunications, there are about seven companies; in broadcasting, well over 30; and in internet service provision, well over 20 internet service providers.
How does the government of Tanzania invest in the ICT sector?
I think the future is bright. With a penetration rate of about 60%, that means there are still a lot more people needing telecommunication services.
NKOMA: In a number of ways. One, there is a Universal Communications Access Fund, where the objective is to actually ensure that the communications services go out to the rural areas. The government has also put in place a national ICT backbone, which is throughout the country of Tanzania, both rural and some of the urban areas as well.
What kind of growth is taking place in Tanzania’s ICT sector?
NKOMA: The communications sector is growing very fast. Over the past few years we have seen how the subscriber base has moved from very low numbers to now, where there are about 28 million subscribers. For Internet penetration, we now have seen about 7 million subscribers, and then we are also going to see the growth in migration towards digital broadcasting. In the postal sector though, this has been slow, but we are introducing the postcode addressing system, which really changes from a few people having addresses to practically every Tanzanian getting a physical address, which I think is very big progress.
What is your outlook for ICT in Tanzania?
NKOMA: I think the future is bright. With a penetration rate of about 60%, that means there are still a lot more people needing telecommunication services, in particular in the rural areas because most of these services were mainly in the urban areas. So now the rural penetration is very important. That's where about 80% of Tanzanians are living.