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March 4, 2013

Phone Firms Defy TCRA Order on Uniform Interconnection Charges

  Subscribers report unchanged rates Agency denies, vows court action
Question have been raised as to the ability of the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) to enforce its mandate following an outright defiance of mobile phone service providers after they refused to observe a set deadline to lower the interconnection charges by Friday.
According to a survey done by The Guardian, mobile phone operators were, until yesterday (day three), still charging the very high rates of 115/- instead of 34/92 per minute passed by TCRA. 
The high rates have been a big burden to the public for quite sometime such that it compelled the authority to convene, advise and then direct the providers to lower them. 
But that is not the case as reported by sbucribers.
Dar es Salaam resident, Anna Mghirwa was ecstatic with the ordered reduction only to wake up to the same overcharged rates shattering her day completely.
“…I was excited and then this…I was hoping that now I can start saving…they have spoilt my whole day…,” she complained.
Hamida Ally, another city resident, also expressed her displeasure and like other interviewed persons, she demanded to know whether the authority had any say over the matter or whether it will admit its failure to enforce the disobeyed directive.
So The Guardian sought out the authority’s response only to run into a contradictory atmosphere all together.
TCRA Acting Head of Corporate Communications Semu Mwakyanjala controversially insisted that the new rates did come to effective as set, on Friday. 
He claimed: “…the telecommunication companies are operating under the new rates....”
That assertion also did not go a long way in alleviating mounting public concerns who argue that the agreement may be on paper but not in practice. 
Giving a practical response, he advised all who wish to file formal complaints to obtain printed call records from the service providers and then send them to the agency.
The acting head said is confident that the directives have been complied with and that the authority has a security system for the very purpose of detecting the rate changes as well as specialists whose sole purpose is to closely monitor the new interconnection charges.
 “…the new rates are legally accepted by all mobile phone operators in the country…,” Mwakyanjala asserted and clarified that all service providers have in fact “…signed an agreement requiring them to start charging the new rates on March 1, this year…” 
Nonetheless he did indirectly hint towards the possible chances of defiance by the service providers.
“…should it be found that the telecommunication companies have defied the order, then legal action will be instituted against them promptly...,” he warned.
In January of this year, TCRA announced progressive voice call termination rates per minute to be 34/92 considerably lower compared to last year’s 115/-. The rate is also to increasingly decrease as follows: 2014 is set for 32/40, dropping to 30/58 in 2015, 28/57 in 2016 and 26/96 in 2017.
Mwakyanjala also made clear that the telecom companies were given adequate time ahead of the rate changes and 30 days to appeal if they were not satisfied with the new rates.
However according to the authority, not one of them did so and as such, any default from this agreement warrants stringent measures.

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