Red Tape Obstructs MTC’s Growth

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK Bureaucratic red tape and long-winded approval procedures meant it took one and a half years for MTC to get the nod for a new base station in Katutura, which then took only two weeks to build. These are among the constraints MTC has faced in its quest to bring 100% network coverage to Namibian consumers, according to the company’s new Managing Director JosÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚© Ferreira. Briefing the media yesterday, he said acquiring sites in some towns has proved to be a major hurdle in the company’s quest to improve its network capacity and quality. “We continuously strive to deal with the issues of network congestion and capacity but the one-to-two-year delays in getting permission to build sites in some instances hamper progress,” Ferreira noted. The company says it is however in contact with the administrations of all towns and villages in Namibia to make its case for speedier decision-making. Other constraints mentioned by Ferreira are the cost and amount of time it takes to obtain power supply for its base stations from NamPower or the Regional Electricity Distributors (REDs). “While our contractor might be able to complete the civil works on schedule, many remote areas will only see the newly completed sites being powered much later,” he said. The company says that in some instances it has to invest in expensive solar alternatives to ensure it can provide coverage. Ferreira mentioned MTC’s reliance on the transmission backbone of Telecom Namibia as a further problem the company has to contend with. The collaboration with Telecom Namibia is seen by the company as a necessary measure to avoid duplication of infrastructure and waste of resources. “The downside is that we again have to rely on the planning cycles of Telecom Namibia to realise our own ambitions. Where our schedules clash, we have to be willing to expect delays,” he remarked. The company nevertheless says it remains committed to providing a network that is future-proof, provides the best quality and is reliable. Since its inception 11 years ago, MTC says it has invested over N$700 million in its operations. In the last financial year, the company invested N$229 million, with another N$280 million budgeted for the current 2006/2007 financial year. By the end of September 2007, the company estimates, it would have invested in excess of N$12 billion in creating what it describes as a “world-class network”. Ferreira believes Namibia ranks among some of the nations with the best coverage on the African continent as far as its mobile phone network is concerned. The company’s figures show 88% population coverage, making Namibia the country with the third best coverage in Africa. By the end of this year MTC estimates network coverage will have risen to 95%. The figure for surface coverage is lower at only 46%, but this can partly be attributed to the fact that one third of Namibia is desert. Surface coverage is however expected to will have risen to 67% by the end of this year. Similarly, network road coverage is 61% at present but the company aims at increasing this to 87% by the end of the year. MTC has rolled out 38 new base station sites countrywide since June and says it expects to commission another 49 by the end of this year, “if everything goes well”. Ferreira confirmed MTC is making good progress towards keeping the December 2006 deadline for its 3G-network rollout. The new 3G technology will enhance the company’s present offerings in mobile Internet access, GPRS and Edge, by allowing broadband access of 1.8 megabytes per second.