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Uganda: Room for Growth Still Exists in Mobile Phone Sector, Says Survey Report

October 15, 2007 • Mobile and Telecoms

Uganda has 14 million potential mobile phone users, but the current providers have a combined four million subscribers.
This accounts for less than a fifth of the would-be market, a HITS Telecom survey shows.

HITS Telecom officials described as false the belief that the market was saturated.
They argued that the 10 million potential customers leave a lot of room for the existing and new players to expand.

“It is going to be a fiercely competitive market. The only market with five players and a population of about 30 million people and a cellular population currently of four million. Room for growth is high,” said Jimmy Kiberu, the HITS Telecom chief corporate affairs officer.

“Besides, the host of problems that customers face today provides a huge opportunity for new players like us.

“Our strategy therefore, will be to give people first- class affordable services and the focus will be the less advantaged who want to communicate but either have no access and/or cannot afford to do so under the current regimes,” he explained.

HITS Telecom, the fourth national operator licensed in March, is in the process of setting up its operations.

“Network deployment has started and site acquisition is ongoing. Some facilities will be shared with existing players with whom talks are already ongoing.”

HITS Telecom will be a turnkey project.

Alcatel Lucent, the technical partner, will build the network and systems and hand over a finished operation ready to run.

“They will also provide back-up and maintenance, according to the contract.

Simon Kisiku, the warehousing and logistics manager, said tests would be conducted by the end of this month.

However, he added, between end of November and early December, the network would have taken off.

The service will be available for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in core central areas like Kampala and Entebbe on a test basis.

“By Christmas, the first phase will be complete and available in the central region extensively.

“In May next year, the second phase of the rollout will be done, covering the rest of the country. Phase three that will start thereafter will cover the gaps left by the two phases,” explained Kisiku.

“We intend to ensure network access across the board and not just in the urban centres.

“We want to give the market the kind of service they have not seen in the industry.

“We are going to leverage our network on widespread coverage, no or limited dropped calls. We want every Ugandan to access wireless service at reasonable and affordable rates.”

He said part of the cornerstone of their operations will be customer service, the kind he said is lacking and has never been experienced in the local industry.

The licensing of HITS Telecom came as a result of the total liberalisation of the market after the duopoly of MTN and uganda telecom ended.

Warid, the other company that was licensed, tested its mobile and landlines last month.

With the two players expected to have launched by year-end, the customer is expected to benefit in terms of wider choice, innovative products that will go for low rates and wide coverage that will bring in the rural population that has only started to be recognised.

But aside from the technology that will be brought in, Emmanuel Kasule, the capacity development manager, said the company is also targeting to acquire some of the best talent from the market.

“We have recruited key personnel totalling 52 at the moment.

“But the number is expected to grow to 150 by the end of the year.

“We intend to be an equal opportunity employer, giving equal chance even to people with disabilities.

“We have designed professional and personal programmes to ensure professional and personal growth of our employees,” he said.

Kiberu said to take the industry to another level will take more than “just technology and best personnel, but harmonised legislation as well to ensure a level playing field and this will ensure enough business for all.”

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