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UTL on route to recovery

UTL: Managers say revenue is up 7% monthly

Kampala, Uganda | ISAAC KHISA | It has been turbulent times for the Uganda Telecom Ltd in the past few years but there are signs that it is finally turning things around since government placed it under provisional administration six months ago.

Once almost unoccupied during the periods leading to the new management, the company’s shop at the head office on Plot 2A-4A Speke Road, is again starting to experience a surge in customer numbers albeit at a slower pace seeking for various services – airtime and SIM Cards.

Otaremwa Otuhumurize, the firm’s current overseer representing the administrator, Uganda Registration Services Bureau, told The Independent in an interview on Nov. 10 that UTL’s business is showing signs of recovery.

“Ever since we came in as the administrator, we are seeing an average of 7% monthly growth in revenue and we haven’t done any magic a part from stabilsing the network and making sure that we respond to the customer complaints in time,” he said, “We have made sure that we have spare parts for our equipment to avoid back and forth with our technicians when called upon to address a specific customer need.”

He says the company is now paying service providers such as Umeme for electricity and fuel dealers for their generators to run the network sites countrywide promptly and thus facilitating effective operations.

He said the company has also repaired majority of its fleet and has readily available fuel to ease movement of its technicians in serving customers.

This, he says, has led to improvement in the firm’s network availability for mobile phones from 75% to 96% countrywide. Fixed phones and internet network availability is at more than 99%, he said.

Otaremwa Otuhumurize

Wage bill declines

In terms of the firm’s wage bill, Otuhumurize says UTL has cut its wage bill by more than Shs600million to Shs1.4bn per month following the departure of the former managers, who were earning hefty sums of money from a business that needed recapitalization to serve its customers well.

“The high wage bill at the time was due to the fact that majority of the top managers – Chief Executive Officer, Chief Finance Officers, Chief Legal Officers and Human Resources Manager – were earning high salaries and unnecessary allowances,” he said, adding that this practice left the company with limited finance for investments.

A dossier that was presented by Nathan Nandala Mafabi, an accountant and member of parliament for Budadiri West in October 2016, revealed that the company’s four top officials’ were earning a total of Shs 420 million per month, with the lowest amongst these four getting Shs60 million while the highest earning Shs 150 million per month.This represented a third of the entire 600 workers earnings in the company.

Upgrading network sites

Otuhumurize revealed that the company is currently in the advanced stages to upgrade its network to 4G especially in major towns of Kampala, Entebbe, Gulu, Mbarara, Mbale, Tororo, Busia and Fort Portal to guarantee fast internet speed to its customers.

This new move, however, is likely to stir competition with the already established networks such as MTN, Airtel, Africell and Vodafone which are reaping from the 4G fast internet.

“We just need about US$4million to start with about 100 sites to provide high speed internet then we keep on expanding,” he said adding, “because if you ask a lot of money, you will not get it. Start small and grow”

Prior to the government take-over, UTL managers had estimated a capital injection into the company of up to US$48million financed through the sale of towers and funding from their Libyan counterpart- LPTIC.

Currently UTL has 445 network sites dotted across the country, majority being the outdated 2G technology and 3G.

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