By David Mugabe
Outgoing MTN Uganda chief, Mazen Mroue, has called on the private sector to invest in rural areas as a way of boosting mobile phone penetration.
Mroue who has served at the helm of MTN Uganda noted that mobile phone penetration which increased greatly a few years ago, has since stalled, adding that the idea of having many players to increase penetration is not working.
“We have low penetration, yet we have a lot of players. Some of the new players are not investing outside the capital city,” Mroue told New Vision in an interview.
Although mobile phone penetration is still about 45%, if the Government scales up infrastructure, it will enhance overall penetration growth, according to Mroue.
He also expressed concern about the several tax levies on the telecom sector such as excise on airtime and phone devices, and the recently introduced nine cent per minute levy on international incoming traffic.
“This is very high, it has resulted into a 40% decline in traffic coming from abroad,” noted Mroue, who took the mantle at the peak of the price wars, which saw an almost 60% reduction in tariffs about three years ago.
He said there is likely to be consolidation and more mergers among telecom companies because the market is too small for seven operators. Orange Telecom was taken over by a West African firm, while Airtel bought Warid Telecom.
Mroue oversaw the growth of subscribers from about 7.5 million to about 10 million in two years, while data customers rose from 500,000 to three million. Also, there are now six million mobile money subscribers from 2.5 million.
He suggested that vandalism of telecom infrastructure should be treated as a crime and asked the Government to consider making the infrastructure national assets.
On the state of regulation that has largely been blamed for failure to enforce the quality of service as well as the rampant unsolicited mails, he noted: “Here, they listen and give chance. This is not available in other markets.”
Mroue praised his former team for their support and appreciated Ugandans for their hospitality.
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