Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) plans to set up a Universal Access Fund (UAF) to help telecommunication operators provide services to areas that are deemed difficult and economically not viable, including rural areas.
Macra communications officer Clara Mulonya, responding to an e-mailed questionnaire on Friday, said the fund is being considered under the revised Communications Act.
She said the fund is expected to facilitate the provision of services to those areas where operators are currently facing challenges to provide services.
Earlier, TNM, one of the country’s mobile network operators, said it was engaging Macra to change the regulatory regime by removing some of the conditions relating to their licence renewal.
TNM board chairperson Matthews Chikaonda, speaking after the company’s 19th Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Blantyre recently, said that the regulatory framework should work in developing Information Communications Technology (ICT) in the country.
He said TNM was requesting authorities to set up a fund from the levies that are collected by Macra which would be used for social purposes, including the development of coverage in rural areas.
Last month, Macra renewed TNM licence based on their performance for the past 15 years it has been in operation. The licence will be operational for the next 10 years with a number of focus areas, the key being quality of service. The initial licence for TNM was issued in 1999.
According to Macra, the renewed licence entitles TNM to provide coverage within Malawi which places an obligation for coverage in both rural and urban areas without any discrimination.
However, Mulonya noted that there are challenges associated with the provision of services in some areas due to such factors as limited access, lack of energy sources and economic non-viability.
Against the background of such challenges, Macra has said once the UAF is set up, there will be a specialised committee responsible for the evaluation of areas that are currently not served to determine the needs of such areas.
According to Macra, after identification and determination of the value of investment needed to provide services in such areas, incentives shall be provided to operators so that they provide services in the areas and serve the communities in such areas, removing the burden on operators having to provide services on their own cost since.