Malawians continue to suffer in silence from poor telecom services which are fast deteriorating.
It is not uncommon to pair two phones, call one of the phones from the other and what you will hear is “the number you have dialled does not exist or is switched off”.
It has also became a normal phenomena to have your call dropped in the middle of an important conversation, or encounter frustrating moments before a call gets through from other networks.
Sometimes it is so rare to make a call and get through on first attempt, developments that that has regulator the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) scratching the head.
You do not have to read Macra’s recently released Third Quarter Quality of Service Report in full to get the whole picture. But the message from Macra is clear; there are loopholes in the country’s telecommunications sector.
In the report on Monday, the authority said there is need for operators to improve performance.
Apart from enduring poor voice service, drop calls, inaccessible lines and slow Internet service, Malawians pay the highest price for telecommunication services.
“I topped up K100 airtime on Monday, but before I even made a call, my service operator sent messages that I have used 90 percent of the airtime. When I checked my airtime balance I had zero. The service is too expensive,” said Matthews Matemba, a businessperson based in Chilomoni, Blantyre.
Consumer Association of Malawi executive director in a recent interview told Business News that Macra needs to bring competition on the market if telecom services are to improve in the country.
According to the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) flagship annual Measuring the Information Society Report 2015, Malawi happens to be one of the countries with the most expensive telecommunication services in the world with mobile cellular prices ranking on 179 out of 181 economies and fixed lines ranking 171 out of 173 economies.
Apart from being too expensive, telecommunication penetration is also poor.
The ITU report for example says in Malawi, the fixed-telephone penetration is less than one per cent as of 2014, meaning the digital divide gap remains wide.
An expert in the industry says it is shocking that while other countries are upgrading to 4LTE network, operators in the country are still backward looking, as most of them are promoting 3G service.
Macra’s report, analysed the performance of the service providers Access Communications Limited (ACL), Airtel, Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) and TNM.
For instance both TNM and Airtel missed the regulators targets in July, August and September in ensuring that Call Set Up Success Rate were 100 percent.
Reads the report: “TNM performance needs to improve in the Call Set Up Success Rate and Radio Network Availability, while Airtel needs to improve in the Radio Network Availability [key performance index] targets as their performance was below acceptable levels.”
Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) is not amused too.
A recent Malawi 2015 Business Climate Survey Report launched last Thursday in Blantyre also show that the telecommunications sector is the third greatest obstacle to doing business in Malawi.
The MCCCI report said irrespective of it being one of the major drivers of business sector growth in an economy, the telecommunications sector performed poorly in 2015.
However, government is partly to blame for this mess in the sector. For example MCCCI blames the high tariffs on voice, data and text messages on 10 percent excise duty Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe introduced in this year’s national budget.
At least there hope. Macra has assured the consumers that it will ensure that operators achieve quality of service which is in the interest of the general public. n