Ladies and gentlemen,
What a great pleasure it is to be with you here today, as we celebrate the many
remarkable achievements of the UCC over the past ten years.
Let’s take a few moments to review those accomplishments. What a long way
Uganda’s ICT sector has come since the establishment of the UCC, following the
adoption of the Communications Act in the late 1990s.
Back in 1998, Uganda was a monopoly market with a very poor level of ICT
penetration, even by African standards.
Teledensity stood at just 0.28 percent. That translates to fewer than one
telephone for every 350 people.
Penetration rates were lower still outside the main cities, and the majority of
rural villages simply had no connection at all.
Today, total fixed line connections stand at over 162,000. Access has been
dramatically increased through the provision of payphones and other public
Mobile growth is even more astonishing. From just 12,500 lines in 1998, Uganda
now boasts a thriving mobile market that’s expected to top six million
subscribers by the end of this year.
Despite warnings by naysayers that radical liberalization of this sector would
lead to the fragmentation of revenues and service coverage, you now have four
operators in place, and all are winning a healthy market share.
Your commitment to broaden access by keeping tariffs as competitive as possible
has created a vibrant market characterized by innovative pricing strategies –
‘family and friends’ promotions, ‘bulk use’ discounts and cash-back promotions
have all been introduced by operators over the course of the year.
Despite the high cost of maintaining older fixed line infrastructure, you've
made Internet access a priority, so that you now have a flourishing ISP sector.
And while Uganda continues to suffer from international bandwidth constraints,
this has not held you back from pioneering a move to the mobile Internet –
putting you well ahead of most of your neighbours, as well as many of the
world’s more developed nations.
New, higher speed wireless technologies like WiMAX and, eventually, IMT-Advanced,
should help you further leverage your mobile base to drive up wireless broadband
and enhance the range and quality of services.
In rural Uganda, you’ve succeeded in extending access to all districts through
public facilities like payphones, multipurpose community telecentres and
Internet cafés. You were among the first in the developing world to make
under-served communities a concrete policy priority, and to set up a sustainable
framework to support ongoing network rollout and service provision, through the
Rural Communications Development Fund.
Your ICT Training Centres are now helping build capacity among grassroots
communities, while providing a livelihood for the local entrepreneurs who run
them. And you’re already well advanced in plans to further extend Internet
connectivity to district schools and hospitals, to improve local education and
health care services.
When it comes to bridging the Digital Divide, Uganda stands out as a shining
beacon of what can be achieved, given the right policies and political will.
Many would like to know the secret of your success. I believe it is that rare
combination of vision; regulatory innovation and best practice; and the
development of a clear roadmap to take you where you want to go.
You’ve had the courage to dare to dream big – and the conviction to carry
through those dreams, through comprehensive project plans backed up by rigorous
You’ve embraced highly innovative ICT development models that harness the skills
and resources of private sector partners to create winning strategies that
And you’ve implemented flexible, transparent and scalable regulatory frameworks
geared to the demands of modern markets through technology-neutral and
Uganda’s new Multi-Service Authorization Regime serves as a model of
forward-looking policy-making, streamlining licensing and helping stimulate
deployment of appropriate technologies as they become available.
So many achievements, in such a short time.
If that were not enough, the future looks even brighter, with several exciting
developments on the horizon.
The EASSy cable is now under construction, and slated to become operational in
2010. TEAMS should come into operation around the same time. When they do, they
will free Uganda from dependence on satellite links, and should help drive
Internet access costs down even further.
At the same time, Uganda is now nearing completion of its own much-needed
national fibre backbone, which will deliver high-speed capacity to public and
private users. This project has enormous potential to generate even more
momentum within Uganda’s ICT market – particularly if capacity can be made
available to service providers at wholesale rates that encourage the on-selling
of affordably-priced services to businesses and consumers.
This concept of ‘Open Access’ to fibre backbone infrastructure was one of the
topics discussed at ITU’s Global Symposium for Regulators in Thailand earlier
this year. While the approach is a relatively new one, it has been successfully
implemented by early adopters including Ireland’s SERPANT Broadband Project, and
the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative in Virginia in the United States.
Both projects are focused on delivering affordable broadband services to
under-served communities and rural populations through infrastructure-sharing
models based around the Open Access concept.
Open Access means creating competition in all layers of the network. Simply put,
it means that backbone operators serve as wholesale providers, giving them the
incentive to sell as much capacity as possible to as many retail providers as
they can, to ensure low-cost delivery to users.
Uganda is ideally poised to embrace such a forward-looking approach. An Open
Access policy meshes perfectly with your unrivalled track record as an
innovator, and your tireless commitment to connecting the unconnected.
ITU is ready to assist you in the development of the necessary frameworks to
support a shared approach to this invaluable new resource, should you so desire.
In an effort to help the global regulatory community stay abreast of new pricing
and modeling practices and methodologies, ITU will be holding an Executive-Level
Training session for Heads of Regulatory Authorities at our Geneva headquarters
immediately prior to this year’s Council session in November.
The session is designed to help top management get to grips with the challenges
raised by emerging technologies. It will be run in parallel with a two-week
training course to help regulatory costing staff develop their own cost models.
As countries begin the transition to Next-Generation Networks, understanding new
cost models at both the strategic and operational level will be essential to
making informed decisions that will promote investment and ongoing development
of the sector.
I trust that I will have the pleasure of welcoming some of you to these two
events, and that while you are there you will be kind enough to share the wisdom
you have gained during the course of your extraordinary ten-year success story
with other leading regulators from around the world.