Communications regulator’s role under Harambee to ensure a safe, stable ICT sector open to all
Issued by Emilia Nghikembua, Chief Executive of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN)
The Kiswahili word “Harambee” which translates to mean, “Pull together in the same direction”, was selected to call for unity and to encourage Namibians to work towards a common purpose through the enactment of the Harambee Prosperity Plan II. Covering the period 2021-2025, HPP II is a commitment by the Namibian Government to deliver better results and to build a more resilient economy to the benefit of all its citizens.
The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) is fully prepared and committed to play its part in making the HPP II activities a priority in planning our short to medium term goals and strategic actions to accelerate national development towards Vision 2030 and prosperity for all.
Established in terms of the Communications Act (No. 8 of 2009), CRAN is an independent regulator that regulates, supervises and promotes the provision of telecommunication services and networks, broadcasting, postal services and the use and allocation of radio spectrum in Namibia.
As such, Pillar 4 of the HPP II which encompasses Infrastructure Development, as a catalyst for economic growth, social progression and a contributor to global competitiveness and investment attraction, falls under CRAN’s mandate. Goal 4, specifies Expanding Coverage for ICT through 3 Activities, namely:
1. Implement an ‘Open Access Network’ infrastructure sharing regime in a bid to champion Universal Broadband Access by 2025.
2. Facilitate a safe and robust ICT ecosystem.
3. Attain 95% Digital Television broadcasting network to all Namibian households by 2025.
From CRAN’s point of view, the necessary measures have been put in place to support HPP II Pillar 4 as follows:
Activity 1 – Infrastructure Sharing Regulatory Framework
Goal 4 highlights the implementation of the Infrastructure Sharing regulations as a priority. Section 50 of the Communications Act (No 8 of 2009) imposes an obligation on dominant licensees to share infrastructure with other licensees or carriers.
Infrastructure sharing has a number of advantages to the communications market such as:
The reduction in investment requirements for infrastructure investments;
The promotion of competition;
The release of capital for strategic investments and new services;
Increase in services and products available to consumers; and
The decrease in the barriers to market entry for new players.
CRAN’s Infrastructure Sharing Regulations, introduced in October 2016, satisfies this obligation by creating a regulatory framework for the non-discriminatory and non-exclusive sharing of passive and active telecommunications infrastructure by dominant licensees.
Passive infrastructure sharing refers to the sharing of infrastructure contained in the physical layer of the network such as ducts, poles, buildings, sites, masts, power supply, shelters, buildings, air-conditioning, etc. CRAN’s observation is that dominant licensees have generally welcomed the sharing of passive infrastructure, and no disputes have been declared in this regard. It is worth noting that the infrastructure that can be shared differs between fixed and mobile networks and that passive infrastructure can also be shared between telecommunication and broadcasting networks as well as utilities.
Active infrastructure sharing refers to the sharing of infrastructure contained in the active layer of the network, such as a facility or equipment used in the provision of a telecommunications service including all features, functions and capabilities that are provided by means of such facility or equipment.
Active infrastructure sharing is crucial for open-access sharing to reduce costs to the benefit of consumers and can only happen when a licensee can utilise the same radio network of another operator such as national roaming or a Mobile Victual Network Operator (MVNO).
CRAN has however noted that limited active infrastructure sharing is currently happening in Namibia and most disputes declared by licensees pertain to active infrastructure sharing. A grave concern noted here is that dominant licensees are not willing to implement active sharing, especially with new entrants in the market and CRAN has identified this as a risk to the attainment of Activity 1 of HPP II. To this end, CRAN will formulate a mitigation plan to enforce dominant licensees to comply with the framework on active infrastructure sharing.
In short, CRAN has a regulatory framework for Infrastructure Sharing, it is now a matter of enforcing these regulations to comply with HPP II and for the benefit of consumers.
Activity 2 – Facilitate a safe and robust ICT ecosystem
As we all know, cyber-attacks have become the norm. The Authority, as the regulator of telecommunications service providers, is required to implement provisions and functions in forthcoming legislation to make ICT services more secure, reliable and trusted.
There is currently one Act, the Electronic Transactions Act (ETA), and two Bills, the Cybercrime Bill and the Data Protection Bill, that addresses the issue of a secure ICT network in Namibia.
The ETA provides for a general framework for the promotion of the use of electronic transactions within Namibia by:
– providing for the legal recognition of electronic transactions;
– providing for the admission of electronic evidence;
– providing for consumer protection in electronic commerce; and
– regulating the liability of service providers for actions of their clients.
However, not all parts of the ETA that would mandate CRAN to implement some of the services needed to fully realise digital signature in Namibia, are yet enacted.
The Cybercrime Bill will require the Authority to set up a National Security and Cyber Incidence Response Team (NSCIRT) for computer and/or information systems in Namibia. Its functions would be to endeavour to collect relevant information relating to security and stability, co-ordinate with other bodies to promote security and stability of information systems and to take all necessary steps to facilitate the detection of offences involving the use of information systems, amongst others.
The draft Data Protection Bill (from 2013), on the other hand, seeks to create provisions for the use, processing and collection of personal information in order to protect citizens’ right to privacy.
Thus, in order to facilitate a safe and robust ICT ecosystem in Namibia, there is a need to finalise the instruments that will enable the legislative framework and expedite the creation of the NSCIRT. CRAN is actively participating in the consultation process to ensure that the two bills currently being reviewed will address and consider all issues pertaining to keeping ICT safe from cyber-attacks.
Activity 3 – Attain 95% Digital Television Broadcasting Network to all Namibian Households by 2025
10 years ago, the Government, together with the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and the Authority, undertook the rather expensive Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) project, a major technological advancement over the previous analogue television technology that existed.
In spite of this advancement, the NBC currently only has an 80% population coverage. Sadly, the roll-out of the DTT coverage was halted in 2015 as the NBC, due to financial constraints, was unable to even provide Set Top Boxes (STB) to their viewers.
The NBC then decided to move to a Direct-to-the-Home (DTH) digital television broadcasting solution which allows NBC, with the aid of satellite broadcasting systems, similar to MultiChoice Namibia, to broadcast its programmes to its viewers in Namibia.
As soon as NBC establishes this DTH satellite distribution network, a 100% geographical and population coverage will be attained. All that the viewer will need is access to electricity, a TV, a satellite decoder and a satellite dish to enjoy the DTH services provided by the NBC. The availability and distribution of these satellite decoders and dishes to its viewer will be NBC’s biggest challenge.
With this DTH technology, the NBC will not need to invest in building towers nor transmitters to achieve a 100% population coverage. Pending funding, the target to achieve 95% population coverage is thus easily attainable by 2025 as envisaged in the HPP II.
The Authority’s role will be to ensure that NBC acquires the necessary spectrum assignments once applied for by the NBC to implement the planned DTH solution.
The Authority plays a very important enabling role in many other pillars and goals in the HPP II. This is especially so when it comes to the implementation of e-Services like e-Governance, e-Learning, e-Health and e-Commerce. From an infrastructural perspective, CRAN has observed important additional ICT challenges in the low ICT literacy and understanding of the relevance of ICT, as well as high import taxes on ICT equipment. Issues which many may believe to be outside the realm of CRAN’s Mandate, but of relevance. There is much to be addressed.