Principal IT consultant, Vincent Roger Machart, said the regulator should come up with a common pricing strategy so that everybody has access to Internet at the same price. He said the sensitivity of the pricing structure to distance might impede the development of competition in some areas of the country. This is because the cost of leasing capacity to backhaul traffic from locations that are far from the main urban areas may be uneconomical for potential alternative operators and service providers. He recommended that the access charge and the bandwidth charge should both be paid by the Internet Service Providers (ISP) to BTC as it is done in other countries in order for the end customer to deal with a single bill for Internet access and service.
“Current and future technologies are much less sensitive to distance compared to legacy technologies,” said Machart, who works for South African-based French IT company, Setics. His recommendations are contained in a 101 page report complied by three IT firms hired by BOCRA to prepare a broadband development strategy for Botswana. The other consultants in the project are Progressus Corporation of France and ICT Consultants of Botswana.The report recommends that the cost studies conducted by BOCRA’s predecessor, BTA in the recent past be re-examined against the sensitivity of cost with respect to distance for various capacities.
“We proposed that the structure of wholesale tariffs for national bandwidth should be adapted accordingly taking into account the results of these analyses,” he said.The report recommends that the access charge should be based on BTC’s actual cost and should be independent of bandwidth. Currently consumers have to pay for connection of Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL). “The price will be different but the bandwidth, and the bits will be the same, this should be independent with the bandwidth,” reads the report. Stakeholders raised concern about the national bandwidth prices that are too sensitive to distance or ADSL usage that implies payment to both BTC and the ISP and is not related to costs.
However, ISPs argued that the pricing structure remains a controversial issue because reductions by BTC cannot trickle down to consumers due to the fact that they pay extra costs when they buy in bulk.The chairman of Botswana Internet Service Providers Association (BISPA) Semere Tekie explained that it is impossible for ISPs to reduce prices because they are still paying extra charges for connections and usage to BTC when they buy in bulk.”BOCRA should take the fact that the market size is limited and the demand is low so ISPs are not experiencing any competition so there is no factor to dictate price reduction from ISPs,” said Tekie. In August last year, BTC slashed its wholesale Internet bandwidth prices by 59 percent due to the commissioning of the undersea West Africa Cable System (WACS). The cable links South Africa with the United Kingdom (UK) along the west coast of Africa, covering a distance of 14,000km.
Credit: Mmegi Online.