Established in terms of the Communications Act (No. 8 of 2009), the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) is an independent regulator that regulates, supervises and promotes the provision of telecommunications services and networks, broadcasting, postal services and the use and allocation of radio spectrum in Namibia.
It is not by chance that the authority has reached a 10-year milestone with a lot to celebrate. CRAN opened its doors with only five employees in 2011 and now has a workforce of 63 employees and boasts a mere 2% staff turnover.
Through commitment and determination, by working together, both from within the authority and with stakeholders, CRAN has seen the results of its vision statement "Access, quality and affordability for all"; its mission statement "To regulate the ICT and Postal sector for the socio-economic benefit of all Namibians; and value statement "Accountability, Passion, Teamwork, Respect and Innovation", become a reality.
Ten years is a relatively short time for an instrumental regulatory body such as CRAN to have substantial and significant milestones to celebrate but CRAN certainly has cause to celebrate. Since its inception, CRAN has issued 58 telecommunications service licenses, 14 Community Broadcasting Service Licences, 1 Signal Distributor and 20 Commercial Broadcasting Service Licences, thus providing a wide array of services throughout Namibia. CRAN has also established a firm regulatory framework for the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) switchover process and formulated a comprehensive frequency-channelling plan, which other SADC regulators are using as a benchmark. SADC also adopted the Financial Model, developed by CRAN, for costing the Communication Regulator of Southern Africa's five-year strategic plan. The model was used as a basis for determining annual membership fees for each SADC member countries, and most recently, CRAN established the regulatory framework for Digital Sound Broadcasting (DSB) paving the way forward for radio broadcasting to embrace a digital world.
CRAN reached a milestone when a 120% mobile penetration rate in the country was reached. This was achieved by CRAN establishing regulatory frameworks that created an environment that promoted fair competition as can be seen by the termination rates in Namibia that decreased from 1.06c to 0.10c for mobile and fixed operators alike between January 2009 and October 2016. In accordance with Namibia's Communications Act, a streamlined complaints handling system was also implemented to further ensure fair competition and consumer protection in the telecommunications sector.
In addition, CRAN also facilitated the extension and digitising of the ICT infrastructure, and the introduction of the 4th generation (LTE) technology in the country. With CRAN finalising the regulatory framework on the numbering plan and number portability for Namibia, once implemented, consumers will be able to move from one network to another with ease.
Consumer protection and advocacy is an integral part of CRAN's mandate. CRAN launched Namibia's first-ever National Consumer Advocacy and Protection Campaign in May 2013. CRAN has worked and continues to work to ensure that consumers receive the full benefits of competitive electronic communication services and are protected from exploitation or abuse. The Child Online Protection campaign provided information on how, why and what to do in instances where a child's rights and security are compromised. The campaign provided information to parents and guardians on how to protect their child from cyber bullying and provided general information on how to keep their child safe when online.
CRAN also issued a directive to all licensees to notify customers, in writing, 30 days prior to a customers' subscription agreement lapsing, or the date upon which contracts are lapsing.
The directive further regulated that in the event that an agreement is not extended, in accordance with the provisions of the agreement, continuity of service is maintained but is automatically transferred to a standard package. The decision was taken to ensure that customers do not pay for services that they are not receiving.
CRAN has undertaken several projects in line with its mandate.
The Consumer Education Campaign, 'OWN it! The Right to Connect', aimed to empower, inform and engage consumers and sought to create awareness about consumers' rights, responsibilities and obligations. The 'Consumer is King' campaign aimed at creating awareness on consumer complaints procedures, CRAN's mandate, the Communications Act and educated potential stakeholders on licence application procedures.
Another impactful achievement was the agreement, signed in July 2020, which saw CRAN's successful conclusion and signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Namibian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) that enables the regulations and governing relationship between the two entities pertaining to all communications on route, during approach, when landing and taking-off of aircrafts in the Namibian skies. CRAN has also concluded a MoU, with the then Department of Customs and Excise, to ensure that all telecommunication devices being imported into the country meet the prescribed minimum quality standards.
Likewise, the signing of the Performance and Governance Agreement, in October 2020, between CRAN's board of directors with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), which serves as a tool through which the government of the Republic of Namibia holds public office bearers accountable, for terms as listed under the agreement, and allows for continuous maintenance of checks and balances on the affairs of a public entity and brings about ease in monitoring and evaluating performances of a state-owned entity, showcases CRAN board members' undertaking to proactively account to robust, timely and transparent delivery on its mandate. Over the past 10 years, CRAN has complied with all statutory requirements, including submission of annual reports and budgets to the line minister.
CRAN in education
An important initiative to CRAN has been the growing utilisation of E-learning. The current pandemic has added a strain, on especially educational institutions, to provide access to digital resources to ensure learners are receiving education through online platforms. The year 2020 saw an increase in the demand for accessing information as it became a matter of importance for issues relating to health, education and communication. There has never been a greater need for the ICT sector to create an easier, affordable and quality access to ICT products and services to be the enabler of e-learning, information dissemination and for connecting people who could not meet face-to-face. CRAN has thus committed itself to adjust its policies and regulations to provide for this need. In the interim, CRAN has initiated various partnerships with institutions of higher learning to build skills and capacity in ICT policy, regulation and management.
In its mantra of 'Pushing ICT Forward', in 2015, a new licence category, the Network Facilities Licence was introduced, which allows the licensee to construct, maintain, own and make available one or more network elements, infrastructure or other facilities that facilitated the provision of telecommunication. In the same light, in 2018, CRAN rolled out Regulations for Postal Services, which resulted in the award/issuance of NamPost with a Public Operator Postal Licence which eventually also led to the courier service providers.
CRAN received two awards in 2017. The first award was for the company that employed the most student interns in the country and was received from the Institute of People Management (IPM) while the second award was the Golden Key Award for being the most open and transparent public institution with universal access to information. This was awarded by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).
In conclusion, it is key to note that the regulatory body has been able to achieve many of its mandates and undertake projects that otherwise might have been impossible through observance to governance by the board of directors. This, coupled with sound leadership supported by various heads of departments, has allowed CRAN to be a success story to date.