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SEACOM integrates Africell infrastructure to power broadband expansion

Former Africell head offices in Kampala.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | SEACOM, a telecommunications service provider has started integrating its infrastructure and the assets it acquired from Africell last year.

Africell quit the Ugandan market late last year following a string of losses and consistent accumulation of debts, and SEACOM acquired some of its assets. Now, SEACOM says this will help it in its broadband infrastructure network expansion drive, as part of its five-year strategy.

“By officially establishing ourselves in Uganda through proprietary facilities and resources, we are prioritizing widespread connectivity and opening up opportunities to work with businesses in search of quality Internet services,” said Tejpal Bedi, Managing Director for East Africa.

The move allowed SEACOM to expand its portfolio of infrastructure essential for connecting enterprise customers, to more than 800 kilometers in and around Kampala city.

SEACOM says it is responding to the needs of the market, where customers are starting to buy more bandwidth, while businesses are making use of the cloud more than ever before, using enterprise resource planning.

Bedi says this is in line with their five-year strategy of expanding in the region, which will go hand-in-hand with new innovations to make services better, secure, cheaper, and helping customers use technology more efficiently.

When Africell quit the market, many former end-user customers were taken on by MTN Uganda and Airtel Uganda, which launched separate campaigns to enroll them immediately.

However, the Uganda Communications Commission and the Ministry of ICT say this is not good for the market because it affects competition and therefore quality of service.

The State Minister for ICT, Godfrey Kabbyanga Baluku says the government will make sure there is no return to monopoly in business because competition boosts efficiency.

According to the UCC report 2020, telecoms were at the helm of supporting the fight against Covid-19 with SMS and caller tunes to sensitize subscribers, connectivity to enable working from home, social networking, and facilitating the COVID-19 emergency call centre with a bouquet of access means.

They also supported electronic transactions and online learning, which have laid the foundation for the faster growth of the IT sector in the country, and Minister Kabbyanga says therefore the coming of SEACOM is timely.

The government has been pointing at the need to expand the internet reach in-country, and in 2018, UCC projected that all the country’s major towns would be covered with 4G internet and the rest of the areas with 3G by the end of the following year.

This followed the issuing of new licensing guidelines, under which MTN, Airtel, and LycaMobile acquired their new licenses.

This however is yet to be achieved, with hope that the coming in of new players will support this strategy.

However, it is also a fact that most Ugandans do not have gargets that can be used to take advantage of the growth of technology.

It is estimated for example that of the 30 million mobile phones, less than half are smartphones.

The minister says the strategy is to ensure at least the majority of Ugandans access 3G phones, which the government plans to supply because most have 2G phones.

SEACOM Group CEO, Oliver Fortuin said they are sure that their expansion strategy in Uganda will go a long way in responding to the issues with solution, including ease of use, cost of internet, security of data, network stability, and many others.

On why SEACOM thinks Africa and Uganda in particular is worth investing in, Fortuin says this is the best moment because there are good relations between the governments and the private sector for the good of the business.

He adds that there is a lot of foreign exchange coming into the continent, and this is boosting consumer spending power.

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