AS the agreed date within East African Community (EAC) to change from analogy to digital technology draws closer, majority of Tanzanians are still ignorant about the changes, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) admits that even the authority and its operation is little known.
The world targets 2015 to have countries switch to digital technology, but the EAC countries to meet the objective by December 31, 2012, but most of the countries in the region are unprepared for the changes and may need to move with analogue until 2015.
According to press reports, some Kenyan nationals have dragged their government to court stopping the analogy to digital move by December 31 this year, but the TCRA officials said that Tanzania has been ready for the changes because its preparations started about six years ago.
At the first ever TCRA seminar with reporters and editors based in Zanzibar, officials bragged that Tanzania has been far ahead of many countries in the region, as far as its technology is concerned.
"At least we are sure of services including the availability of decoder devices," said Mr Victor Nkya, TCRA deputy director- zonal operations. He said of the 24 per cent requirement for preparations to enter digital technology, Tanzania has already beat 20 per cent and the "remaining four per cent include some parts of the country such as Morogoro."
Nkya said that preparation for the scientific migration started in 2001 and there was a boost in 2005. Nkya said the shifting to digital applies to television, asking users to switch their mind to the new world, asking the media to help spread the news about digital including programmes about the work of TCRA. He said media can bring big change in the country.
The zonal operations director mentioned other achievements since TCRA was established as control over the telephones interconnection Rate ceiling of TZS 112.70, anticipating that rates will drop more next year. He said the number of mobile phones have grown from 300,000 in 2005 to about 28 million in 2012.
However, he said the registration of mobile phones has been challenging because of the mobile telephone companies have been reluctant to have unregistered phones locked. "but we managed to register over 90 per cent and hopefully the rest may be complete by mid next year."
He also said that frequency monitoring vehicle with a capacity of monitoring about 350 square kilometres has been purchased for Zanzibar. "This is about 1bn/- van increases to seven currently operating in the whole of Tanzania. The other six are in Tanzania mainland." But despite the development and preparations towards digital world, Nkya joined his colleagues:
Mr Othman Khatib (Director- Zanzibar), Mrs Raheela Rashid (official- Zanzibar) and Mr Innocent Mungy (Manager, TCRA corporate communications) at the seminar held at the Zanzibar Ocean View to say that the authority and its functions is still unknown to many Tanzanians.
It was also obvious at the seminar that even majority of reporters who are supposed to inform and probably educate the public about TRCA were ignorant about most of the activities of the authority, as some reporters asked how Zanzibar was benefiting from the revenues collected by the TCRA and why calls in most mobile has been bad.
TCRA established under the TCRA Act no. 12 of 2003, is a statutory regulatory body responsible for regulating the communications and broadcasting sectors in Tanzania which merged the Tanzania Communications Commission (TCC) and the Tanzania Broadcasting Commission (TBC).
Mr Mungy mentioned the duties of TCRA as promoting effective competition and economic efficiency; protecting the interests of consumers; protecting the financial viability of efficient suppliers; promoting the availability of regulated services to all consumers including low income, rural and disadvantaged consumers;
Enhancing public knowledge, awareness and understanding of the regulated sectors including: The rights and obligations of consumers and regulated suppliers; the ways in which complaints and disputes may be initiated and resolved and the duties, functions and activities of the Authority, but taking into account the need to protect and preserve the environment are other functions of the TCRA.
The manager authority's work also include performing the functions conferred on the Authority by sector legislation; to issue, renew and cancel licences; to establish standards for regulated goods and regulated services; to establish standards for the terms and conditions of supply of the regulated goods and services and to regulate rates and charges.
Tanzanians should know that TCRA's role is also to monitor the performance of the regulated sectors; facilitate the resolution of complaints and disputes; to take over and continue carrying out the functions formerly of the Tanzania Communications Commission and Tanzania Broadcasting Commission and to disseminate information about matters relevant to the functions of the Authority.
Negative impact of health and environment prolonged draught, poor harvests, impotency and infertility are some of the problems which have emerged in some communities in Tanzania blaming telecommunication towers and frequency monitoring vehicle.
People say in all areas where mobile frequency motoring van pass and telecommunication towers have been placed, the mentioned problems are witnessed. However, the TCRA officials argue that these are misconception and myths.
TCRA says that increased use of communication equipment such as mobile phones, base stations, antennas, radar equipment, radios, televisions, computers, etc in Tanzania and elsewhere around the world has raised public interest in health issues and environment associated with exposure to electromagnetic radiation.
Nkya said that Telecommunications and broadcasting equipment emit electromagnetic waves which are within exposure limits consistent with the recommendations (reached after extensive research of over 50 years) of many international organizations, including:
International Telecommunications Union (ITU), World Health organization (WHO), International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), GSM Association and Mobile Manufacturers Forum (MMF).
The communication expert said that the radiofrequency (RF) database on biological and health effects is extensive, thorough and global with thousands of scientific publications. The rate at which radiation is absorbed by the human body is measured by the "Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)" in W/kg.
He said that the conclusions from these publications show that there is strong evidence that RF exposure below a certain threshold does not cause harmful effects to biological systems. "The weight of substantial international scientific research is that there is no substantial evidence that the use of communications equipment causes harmful health effects.
Consumers should continue to have confidence in the many benefits of modern technology including mobile telephony, TV and computers which are used by people globally," he said. In addition, Othman said to further minimize complaints, TCRA is promoting infrastructure sharing among service providers and has therefore introduced the Converged Licensing Framework comprising four licences;
Network Facility Licence, Network Services Licence, Application Services Licence and Content Services Licence. He said operators have been asked to make sure that some devices are not placed in residential areas and that base station antennas are mounted on a tower normally 15 to 50 m high or on roof tops and hence the radiation reaching a consumer is within the threshold limit.