May 15, 2008
MTN goes where others will not
What challenges do you continue to face as you offer communication service?
Poor infrastructure such as bad roads and hostile terrains especially in areas that others may deem as commercially unviable.

Inconsistent power supply also makes steady and reliable provision of communication services a challenge. The provision of our own power supply has added considerable costs to maintaining network services.

The market demand for low denomination products (eg airtime vouchers) presents a challenge too as they add significant expenses in product costs as well as providing logistic challenges. As an example, when introducing the 500/- and 1,000 vouchers, MTN had to produce 4X more cards than we were producing 2k airtime cards. This means more computer processing power is needed which equals more costs. Of course the physical costs of the additional cards runs into hundred of millions in additional costs per month.

Low internet penetration makes it difficult to drive and increase on data services. Internet also serves as a cheap advertising platform in developed markets. Again, the low penetration means operators have to continue to rely on more expensive traditional advertising media.

Uganda being satellite locked makes provision of internet data / internet services incredibly expensive.

What form of communication mechanism do Ugandans use mostly and why?
Ugandans use mostly the voice service because it is more accessible to all and more affordable.
SMS is the next most used medium – over 65% of MTN customers make use of SMS. The importance of this cannot be underestimated as SMS is really the first form of data communication many consumers use. To a large portion of customers, it is the pre-cursor to internet and other forms of data usage.

What forms of communication mechanisms do you offer to Ugandans? Explain in detail.
MTN offers voice and data services to our customers. We offer voice prepaid services, post paid services as well as public access payphones. We ensure that our services are affordable especially through public payphones.
We offer these services on mobile and fixed line platforms as well.

What projections does MTN have about what communication innovations that are likely to be introduced in Uganda?

With increased data usage there will definitely be a lot more content availability on mobile phones e.g. information on restaurants, theatres, etc. Local companies will begin seeing the value in providing content to mobile users. The provision of content is critical for data usage levels to increase in Uganda. It will also reduce costs as instead of accessing data / content that resides and is hosted outside of Uganda, local content can be accessed quickly and cheaply without having to rely on expensive satellite connectivity that makes internet access so expensive in most parts of Africa.

The EASSy cable which is an undersea fiber optic cable that will link the countries of East Africa to the rest of the world will enable cheap access to data services like email, the internet, etc.
Shared applications on mobile
Real time instant messaging, voice mail, etc

What are the latest modes of communication that MTN has introduced over the last two years?
Push email which enables functionality on the BlackBerry and Mobile Office

To what extent has the communication service enabled development of the economy?
It is known that every 10% increase in mobile penetration translates into a 1% increase in a developed country’s GDP. In Ug

Sheila Kangwagye, MTN's Public Relations Officer

anda, the telecoms sector contributes 4% of the country’s GDP, and the development of the informal sector shows that the economy has benefited from communication services by saving on resources such as time and cost.
Furthermore, MTN is the biggest contributor of tax revenues to the government.

Communication is key but still very many Ugandans can’t afford to own communication devices. What is MTN doing about that and what is causing this?
Some of the major obstacles to accessing telecommunication services in Uganda include the high cost of phone handsets as well as low economic realities, this being a third world country. However, in taking steps to make these services available and affordable to as many people as possible, MTN has and still negotiates with global handset manufacturers like ZTE who developed the Kabiriti phone which is the cheapest on the market, to be able to provide even cheaper phones. Also, through the roll out of Public Access shared phone services through the Universal Access project, MTN endeavors to connect areas others consider inaccessible and commercially unviable.

Offering of the communication service is becoming very competitive for you now. What are you doing to overcome that?
We are focusing on the reasons that customers choose MTN, providing quality and service delivery at affordable prices, that is, real value for money. We are rolling out value added products such as MTN CashBack, Friends & Family among others and being a total telecommunications solutions provider.
As noted above, how is the public benefiting from the communication service competition?
The public is definitely benefiting through increased and varied choices in products. The competition is good because it drives innovation and improves service.