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Uganda needs more Investment in Fibre Optic Cables to reduce Internet Costs

There is need for robust lobbying to bring down the cost of Internet bandwidth to further the penetration of information communication technology (ICT) in Uganda, a key player in the local telecom industry has said.

“The bringing of submarine cables onto the East African coast was predominantly lobbied for by the business community, especially in Kenya. We need to lobby further in a similar way for companies that can invest in fiber optic technology as a business,” said Godfrey Kisekka, the Orange Uganda chief technical officer.

Uganda, served by two undersea fibre optic cables, has a lower Internet penetration than neighbours Kenya and Tanzania, with experts blaming the high cost of Internet bandwidth for Uganda’s trailing.

Uganda is currently served by The East African Marine System (TEAMS) and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), covering a 17,000km distance at a cost of more than $650m (sh1.7 trillion).

Before the fiber optic cables reached the East African coast in 2009, Internet connectivity was realised through the overly expensive satellite links.

“The cost (of Internet) went down considerably (when fibre cables came), but could not reach the Kenya and Tanzania levels. This is because Ugandan operators have to build or pay for backhauling from Uganda through Kenya or Tanzania to the coast,” Kisekka said.

“We are charged by either Kenyan or Tanzanian operators an additional cost. With more routes in Kenya and Tanzania, perhaps the cost of backhauling will come down, but that is something that Ugandan companies have no control over.”

Orange’s products and services manager Sophia Mukasa said the taxes on mobile devices are also partly to blame for the high Internet costs.

“In Uganda, it is hard to compare ourselves with Kenya because they do not tax mobile phones,” she said.

The two made the comments on Monday at Orange Uganda headquarters in Kampala as the company unveiled plans to launch their 4G LTE mobile Internet packages.

By BILLY RWOTHUNEGYO
The New Vision Newspaper
31-July-2013

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