3 February 2013

Uganda: Telecom Service Remains Poor Despite UCC Threats

More than a week after the Uganda Communications Commission sent a stern warning to telecom firms about the quality of service, callers are still grumbling over dropped and blocked calls, losing money in the process.

There are still some who complain of a phone call abruptly going off, while others say loading airtime is still difficult due to a breakdown in the network. Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) established that all the five GSM networks, namely Mtn, Utl, Airtel, Warid And Orange fell below average standards.

"The quality of service is far below the standard despite our warnings to the companies. The only thing left is to employ punitive measures if they don't comply with our requirements," said Godfrey Mutabazi, the Executive Director UCC.

UCC carried out the monitoring exercise between July and October last year in the towns of Kampala, Jinja, Mbarara, Gulu, Kasese, Masaka, Mbale and Mukono. The exercise was based on three parameters: dropped call rate, blocked call rate and successful call rate. The acceptable dropped call rate is 2%.

Dropped call rate is the percentage of calls that are dropped after connection to the network in the duration of the call. Orange Uganda registered the lowest overall dropped call rate of 1.7%. Airtel came second with 3.3%, MTN had 3.6%, Warid 4.0% and lastly UTL with 4.5%.

In terms of blocked calls (those that are blocked during call set- up), UCC's acceptable limit is 2%. Orange had 6.13% followed by MTN with 7.2%. Warid registered 8.3%, Airtel 8.4%, while UTL recorded 12.9%. None of the service providers hit the 99% UCC limit when it comes with successful call rate.

Mutabazi attributed this poor performance to a number of factors like the increase in the number of telecom subscribers, which is now close to 16 million people. Also, lowering call rates and the failure by telecom companies to invest in upgrading their technology, were among those reasons behind the poor quality service.

UCC has warned that those companies that do not improve their services could face it rough. "Our team will start carrying out another exercise and if nothing is done, we will take punitive action," Mutabazi said. "From today, the game is over," he added.

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