TELECOMMUNICATIONS: ZAMTEL’s role on Zambia’s Telecoms Policy Framework (Part 2)
Bernadette Deka-Zulu (PhD Researcher-Public Enterprise)
THE Zambian government began reforming its telecommunications sector in the late 1990s, with the liberalisation of the telephone market and other policy reforms.
Zamtel, a state-owned company, has dominated the telecom sector since then and has taken many steps to improve its services. With help from the World Bank, it began a process of reform in 2007 to enhance competition and improve efficiency.
The Zambia Information & Communication Technology Authority was also established to regulate the sector and ensure transparency.
Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are telecommunications service providers that provide wireless services to subscribers. MNOs own and operate their networks and are responsible for their spectrum licences. They also enter into interconnection agreements with other MNOs to exchange traffic.
Zamtel is the oldest and largest operator in the country, with over 2.5 million subscribers. It plays a major role in the development of the country’s telecommunications infrastructure and has been instrumental in the rollout of mobile services in the country.
It has been present in Zambia since the 1990s and was established in 1997. Zamtel was the only mobile network operator in Zambia until the early 2000s when other operators such as MTN, Airtel, and Vodacom entered the market. These operators have since become the major players in the Zambian telecommunications industry.
Zamtel has played an important role in the development of the telecommunications industry in Zambia. It has invested heavily in infrastructure and technology and has been instrumental in providing access to mobile services to rural areas.
How have MNOs changed over the years?
MNOs have evolved significantly over the past few decades. They have moved from being providers of voice services to providing the full suite of telecommunications services, including voice, data, and multimedia services.
They have also adopted a range of pricing structures, ranging from flat-rate plans to more creative offerings. The emergence of new technologies has also had a big impact on MNOs.
Voice over IP (VoIP) and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) has been particularly important in enabling MNOs to offer services to customers at reduced costs and improved quality. Additionally, MNOs have leveraged new technologies such as artificial intelligence , 5G, and cloud computing to provide more tailored services to customers.
ZAMTEL in policy reforms
Telecommunications is a critical sector for social and economic development. In line with this, Government has formulated policies and regulations that aim to promote competition, growth, and universal access to telecommunications services. Zamtel plays a significant role in the implementation of these policies.
Zamtel has played an important role in policy reforms regarding telecommunications in the country. It has helped with the implementation of the national ICT policy to promote the growth of the sector and make it more attractive for profitable investment.
Zamtel has also played an important role in introducing significant measures to further the development of communication services, including the establishment of a Gateway Telephone Number and implementation of partial privatisation through setting up Zamtel (Z) Limited, a public listed company.
The Communications Act was passed to reinforce these efforts and help promote social and economic development through the use of ICTs.
As the national operator, Zamtel is tasked with ensuring that all Zambians have access to quality and affordable telecommunications services. To this end, it has been actively involved in the rollout of mobile services in the country.
It has invested heavily in the buildout of telecoms infrastructure, and it is the only operator with nationwide network coverage. Zamtel has also been instrumental in the development of the country’s regulatory framework, as it was one of the first operators to commit to an interconnection agreement with the government.
Zamtel has also been involved in policy reforms, such as the introduction of mobile number portability, which allows customers to switch between operators without having to change their phone numbers.
Zamtel has also been involved in initiatives to reduce roaming charges for customers travelling abroad, as well as initiatives to reduce the cost of internet access.
The role of ZAMTEL in policy making
ZAMTEL has played a significant role in policy reforms in the telecommunications sector in Zambia. For instance, the company has been a key participant in the formulation of critical national policies, such as the National Tariff Regulation of 1999, which set the framework for competition in the newly liberalized telecommunications sector.
In addition, the company has actively been involved in the review and amendment of the Electronic Communication Regulation Act of 2006, which provides for the licensing, regulation, and development of the sector.
Moreover, Zamtel has also been actively involved in the formulation of sector-specific policies, such as the National Numbering Plan of 2007, which sets out the rules and procedures for assigning telephone numbers to new and existing subscribers.
The company has also played a major role in the development of guidelines for the operation of telecommunication network infrastructure, such as the Transmission and Switching Code of 2007.
The role of ZAMTEL in infrastructure development
In addition to its role in policy-making, Zamtel has also played a key role in infrastructure development in the telecommunications sector. The company had invested heavily in the rollout of new technologies such as 4G LTE and fibre optic networks.
These investments enabled the company to increase its coverage across the country and strengthen its presence in rural areas.
Moreover, the company has also been actively involved in the promotion of international roaming services. This has enabled Zambians to access mobile services across the continent, as well as international calling services.
The company’s efforts in this regard have contributed to the regional integration of Zambia with its neighbours in the Southern African region.
Zamtel’s contribution to the economy of Zambia
The telecommunications services provided by Zamtel have provided a major boost to the country’s economy. The company has enabled businesses and individuals to access services, such as internet access and mobile telephone services, which has allowed them to stay connected and tap into global markets.
This has resulted in increased investment and job creation in the country. In addition, the company’s investments in infrastructure have provided a major impetus to GDP growth.
The company’s efforts in policy reforms have also had a major impact on the economy. Zamtel’s involvement in the formulation of sector-specific policies has enabled the government to encourage competition in the sector, which has resulted in lower tariffs and expanded access to services.
This has had a positive impact on the growth of the sector and has enabled innovation and investment in the sector.
MNOs have evolved significantly over the past few decades and play an important role in the development of the country’s telecommunications infrastructure. Zamtel has been at the forefront of this development, as the national operator and as a key participant in Zambian telecommunications policy.
Its role in the overall development of mobile services in the country is undeniable, and it is expected that its efforts will continue to drive progress in the coming years.
The company’s investment in new technologies has enabled the sector to expand and grow. Moreover, Zamtel’s involvement in policymaking has resulted in increased competition and lower tariffs, which has contributed to the growth of the sector.
Finally, the company’s contribution to the economy of Zambia has been widely recognised and its impact on economic growth has been significant, hence, being instrumental in providing access to mobile services to rural areas.
These reforms have had a positive impact on the telecommunications industry in Zambia, and we hope they will continue to do so in the future.