African Governments Asked to Plough Back Cell Phone Taxes

Friday, October 27, 2006

Telecommunications experts say mobile networks have the capacity to provide coverage to 90 per cent of the world’s population by 2010.

But this could happen only if governments spend all the tax collections from telecoms industry on improving the mobile infrastructure.

Speaking in Cape Town yesterday, experts urged Governments to complement mobile operators towards achieving this goal instead of watering down their efforts through ill-advised policies of subsidising rollouts of fixed-networks.

Mr Nkateko Nyoka, MTN group executive for regulatory affairs said the universal service funds have not been used optimally, thus slowing down access to fixed and mobile communications.

In a study, the global trade association for mobile operators called the GSM Association, says that $6 billion collected from the telecoms industry and $2 billion from the mobile operators in service levies has not been used to boost the initiative as only $1.5 billion has so far been spent.

“Of the $1.5 billion that has been distributed so far, just 5 per cent ($75 million) has been used to extend mobile coverage, despite the distinct cost advantages of mobile technologies, ” says the report in part.

It is estimated that the cost of providing mobile coverage to an individual is one-tenth of the cost of installing a fixed line.

Even with the increased mobile coverage, a large population in Africa is still not connected, as they cannot afford mobile phones. Eighty per cent of the population live in rural areas.

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Source: The East African Standard (Nairobi) (link opens in a new window)