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New licences to change telecoms landscape

The new service and technology neutral licences issued to three telecommunications service providers by regulator CRAN early this week, are set to revolutionise the country’s telecommunications landscape, experts have said.
The newly set-up telecommunications regulator, CRAN under the leadership of CEO Stanley Shanapinda, made history on Tuesday by granting MTC, AfricaOnline and WTN with service and technology neutral licences that will allow the operators to offer a variety of telecommunications service offerings using the latest technology in the industry.
Before the conversation of the operating licences, the three operated under different licences but with the granting of the new licences, all previous licences have now been combined, and they are technology neutral meaning the service providers can now install infrastructure and provide telecommunications services on any technology.
In an interview, MTC MD Miguel Geraldes told the Economist that the new licence will allow the  mobile telecommunications giant to use different technologies that will enable it to connect to customers using several technologies.
“Until now we had a specific licence regulating a specific technology called GSM. GSM is the mobile technology that is commonly used all over the world. This new licence that we have received, will allow us to use different technologies that will enable us to connect to customers using several technologies. For example, to connect a household, the only way was through GSM (wireless technology) but from now onwards we can connect a fibre directly to a household providing several services such as internet, voice and maybe TV directly to the household using much more efficient technology.”
Geraldes said the new licences will also benefit the consumers as operators will now provide different packages or services with different prices. “Basically consumers will have alternatives, i.e whether to have a fixed line or mobile service in a household that will be joined together from the same operator,” he said.
Shanapinda said the new licences will result in increased business diversity. “Before, the licences that they had could only limit them to for example, Wimax, now they can diversify their service offerings,” he said.
Barney Harmse, group CEO of WTN, a Pan African telecommunications provider with operations in 12 African countries was also excited about the new licences. He said they are now busy with a 4G roll-out on a national scale – the first company in the country to roll out 4G commercially, according to him.
“We operated under different licences in the days of NCC. For example, we had a Vsat licence, an international gateway licence and a broadband licence – we had all the three licences with different services. The licence that was awarded today, combines all those licences and most important, the licence given today is technology neutral.
“Previously we where only allowed to apply for a specific licence on a specific technology, now it is technology neutral. We can now use the new licence to install infrastructure and provide telecommunications services on any technology,” Harmse said.
But while MTC customers can look forward to a new era of service and products, Leo customers will have to wait a little longer as the country’s second biggest mobile phone operator , together with CTS and iBurst, failed to meet the transitional period deadline for it to be awarded with a service and technology neutral licence.
The CRAN CEO could not be drawn to discuss in detail the reasons why the three providers failed to meet the transition deadline. He could only say: “They all have various reasons why they haven’t yet complied but overall you can some it up to financial, technical and procedural issues.”

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