Tag Archives: mtn uganda

MTN’s “Unlimited” Limited Internet

I’ve been on the wrong side of various service providers as a result of my open expression of experiences while consuming services. It therefore came as a surprise when MTN Uganda called me up and requested that I try out the MTN Unlimited Internet Premium service.

Unlimited is a term that essentially means unrestricted, unconfined, boundless or infinite. So, in the real sense of the word, this service is not really unlimited. The package offers you internet access of upto 3 Gb on a daily basis. So, there is actually a limit only that it’s quite high for the average Joe to fully consume.

Being one with a mobile office, I rely a lot on mobile internet services to render my services. I must admit that I was one of those who were skeptical about this MTN offer until I tried it out.

In my days as a kid, I always demanded stuff like sweets from dad and mom whenever the opportunity presented itself. Today, my children demand data !!!! It is so serious that even when I claim not to have data, they mobilise resources among themselves and load a data package to see them through for a day or so. The kind of game apps they access can strain the regular data packages. This is another reason why I gladly wanted to test this service. How easy is it to deplete the 3Gb allotted daily?

I gave my family the challenge to deplete the daily allotted data and this meant unrestricted use of the internet. Where I used to limit them watching videos and TV shows online, this time round, they had a blank slate. They could hardly believe their ears. We all tried and worked towards this feat without success.

My initial observations show that it’s an always on service with much less downtime than my traditional data provider.

Consuming 3Gb of data is no mean feat especially if you’re not the type to always be at the computer. I tried watching all sorts of videos, encouraged my children to play online games, watch online study lessons, chose to upgrade software but alas, still failed.

This data service works well for urban connectivity, however, in rural settings, there are still challenges. I’m writing this article on a sojourn in Butaleja district and have had to do without internet while in my gardens and at home. Most urban dwellers can do with just about any service provider since their services are usually decent in such locations. It takes one a journey to rural locales to establish whether your data service is worth its salt. MTN Uganda has to find ways of improving 3G coverage nationwide.

There has always been this talk of lost data and I blogged about it before. It’s still a big problem apparently. I can authoritatively state that six (6) out of ten people I have interacted with have complaints about unexplained data loss. As a matter of fact, I personally transitioned from buying monthly data bundles to daily ones simply because of the ease of monitoring my data consumption. Imagine loading 1Gb of data for a month and by the third day it’s finished.

If you’re a power user and want to save yourself the data loss gymnastics, then I strongly believe opting for this “Unlimited” MTN Service is ideal. The cost of UGX 330,000/= monthly for the Premium option however leaves me wondering whether it is pocket friendly enough. However, there is the Basic option that goes for UGX 179,000/=. Maybe, I will consider subscribing for the latter.

Overall, my experience tells me, the MTN “Unlimited” Internet is worth having for the internet savvy.

James Wire is a Small Business and Technology Consultant based in Kampala, Uganda

Follow @wirejames on Twitter.

Email lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com

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Sim Card Verification exposes the joke that UCC has become

Only Dr. Stella Nyanzi in my view has the right vocabulary to effectively describe the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and its haphazard handling of issues.

Five years ago, the commission huffed and puffed about the need to register sim cards citing security as one of the key reasons it was being done.

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Eng. Mutabazi being assisted during the launch of the registration exercise. Photo Credit – Daily Monitor, 2012

The Executive Director, Eng Godfrey Mutabazi is on record having said that, “In countries where SIM card registration has been taken seriously, a drop in crime especially cybercrime has been registered. We want to emulate this and see to it that such unlawful acts are done away with.”

 

Many of us supported the move and even used various fora to enlighten the general public about the importance of registration. The deadline set for 2013 passed and before we knew it another threat was issued to the telecoms companies to ensure that the process is completed in 2015. Interestingly, we were led to believe that the issue had been sorted once and for all.

To my shock, earlier this year, information from the Police begun pointing fingers at the use of unregistered simcards by criminal gangs. The UCC kept mum. Is it because the victims were largely lay men? It wasn’t until the investigations into the assassination of the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Mr. Felix Kaweesi (RIP) that the UCC was jolted out of its slumber.

With the kind of resources this institution commands, it is foolhardy for one to believe that they have a genuine reason for such a lapse in judgement. I strongly believe this is a sign of gross incompetence in the institution that is failing to offer the much needed direction for the ICT industry, preferring to concentrate on shutting down internet during election time as well as shopping for pornography tracking equipment. It seems like UCC is narrowing its attention to matters that involve procurement (this was actually intimated to me by a Member of Parliament) as they offer quick gains to the individuals involved there-in as well as satisfying the politburo’s demands. These two areas of engagement I presume form the basis for any contract renewal that the head of the institution is definitely interested in.

By failing to do the obvious, the Eng Mutabazi led outfit has slowed down the pace set by Mr. Patrick Masambu the former Executive Director of UCC who is currently the Director General of the International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation (ITSO). Despite the massive hurdles he went through to set up this institution, Mr Masambu defied all odds to leave a healthy and globally acclaimed institution in place.

The latest gaffe has been the press release by UCC that orders Telecommunication service providers to verify all SIM card subscriber details within seven (7) days starting 12th April 2017. The communique advises the public to visit the nearest authorised telecoms service centres as well as utilising the *197#.

I can only shake my head in disbelief because whoever came up with this decision at UCC is out of touch with reality. Do they think that they are managing a home? Do they realistically expect even 50% of the Ugandans to get sorted within one week? Which world are these !#%&^396$#@ living in? (Dr. Nyanzi the queen of metaphors please come to my rescue here)

Now to Eng Mutabazi and your team, do you really believe that:

  • All Ugandans are within 7 days reach of a recognised Telecoms Service Centre?

  • All Ugandans will have got the information to pursue this activity within 7 days?

  • All Ugandans will have the money and time to make it to the various centres within 7 days?

  • All Ugandans have National IDs?

  • All Ugandans are utilising their cell numbers within the boundaries of this country?

  • All Ugandans have time to repeatedly go to Telecoms service centres in a bid to repeat activities they had already engaged in?

Take the example of this guy

kaabong

Meanwhile, like you can see, he at least might be able to afford the entire exercise financially. What happens to the many that cant afford it and also reside where he is currently working? [Pointing my index finger onto my bald head saying “COMMON SENSE IS NOT COMMON”]

Meanwhile of the seven (7) days given, four of them are taken up by the Easter Holidays. For a country that is over 70% Christian, why do you think they will leave their celebrations to attend to an exercise that was caused by your incompetence?

When will you get out of this gambling nature that seems to have become a part of your operational manual? I do believe that UCC as an institution has some very brilliant minds, a number of whom are known to me personally but the way the institution is operating as a whole, makes any outsider think it is a bunch of jokers. This should be a wakeup call to the appointing authority, at this rate, the efforts to attain Middle Income status are likely to be sabotaged by an inefficient Communication and Technology Sector whose regulatory agency seems to be operating in a reactive rather than proactive manner.

This seven day deadline is simply a poorly thought through decision that only serves to lay bare the incompetence of the institution we are meant to look upto for guidance. Could it be time for a total purge?

Let me go pick my orange tree seedlings and plant before the rains cease. I think I have had enough of this circus.

James Wire is a Small Business and Technology Consultant based in Kampala, Uganda

Follow @wirejames on Twitter.

Email lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com

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When Money Muzzles the Media. Ezee Money Vs MTN Uganda.

Ugandans have been known as an entrepreneurial lot and over the last five years it was common news seeing Uganda listed among the top entrepreneurial nations in the world. Buoyed by the high unemployment rate and lately the zeal to innovate, many Ugandans are coming up with initiatives that are changing the way we do business.

It is also a known fact that big business tends to prey on small start-up entrepreneurs either by suffocating them into oblivion or ‘stealing’ their ideas. In 2003, a pioneer IT Software Development company, Digital Solutions developed an Airtime Sharing solution that they dubbed Me2U and proceeded to interest MTN Uganda. After some back and forth communication, they got a chance to present the product to MTN and eventually were requested to deploy a laptop on the MTN network in order to test the service for two weeks. After the testing period, MTN expressed lack of interest in this service but turned around later in 2004 to launch a similar service. Digital Solutions dragged MTN to court and battled with the giant until an out of court settlement was made. During all this time, no media house had the guts to publicise the case save for one article I came across written by the Observer Newspaper.

Ten years later, Ezee Money a multi-national company offering mobile financial services to individuals and businesses dragged MTN Uganda to court. For What?

The issues at hand were;

  • Whether MTN breached statutory duties owed to Ezee Money under the Communications Act 2013

  • Whether the exclusivity agreements between MTN and Mobile money agents were lawful

  • Whether MTN committed unlawful torts (A civil wrong which can be redressed by awarding damages) of causing loss by unlawful means and unlawful interference with contractual relations

  • Whether Ezee Money is entitled to the remedies it seeks

This case has been on since 2013 and was eventually decided on the 6th of November 2015 in favour of Ezee Money. This is exactly twelve (12) days ago from the writing of this post. There-in lies the problem I want to tackle.

During the reading of the Judge’s ruling, many media houses were present and their reporters were seen keenly taking notes as expected. However, it surprised me when I learnt that none of the media houses went ahead to report to the public what had transpired. They all kept silent and internet searches that I have done on this case show the absence of any information on this ruling until the 16th of November when Ezee Money paid for advertising space in the New Vision newspaper to make public this information. It is even more disturbing that online media outlets like Chimp Reports, The Investigator, Big Eye among others that have established a brand for fearlessly publishing information took a step back and conveniently ignored this ruling. A quick visit to their websites in a way confirmed to me why they could have decided so.

Why was this a land mark case in Uganda?

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MTN Agent Kiosk

  • By ruling that the exclusivity agreements between MTN Uganda and it’s agents infringe Section 53(1)(b) of the Communications Act 2013, hence are illegal, many dealers whose ability to generate additional revenue had been stifled by an unfair dominant partner have been liberated. Imagine having a self funded outlet and you are restricted to dealing in services of only one operator. The over 15,000 MTN Agents and those of other Mobile Telecom companies have been landed an opportunity to diversify their business operations.

  • By further preventing MTN Uganda from inducing any third parties (In this case Yo Uganda) to breach their contract with Ezee Money, the impunity with which large market players have been acting to frustrate new businesses has been arrested. More details on this shall be shared in a subsequent article that will show how MTN Uganda orchestrated the plot to frustrate Ezee Money.

Now to the tough question, why was the media silent about all this?

Apart from a single article that I came across online published by the Daily Monitor, in 2013 when the case was unfolding, nothing much has been served to the public in this regard. I have always heard media practitioners share their experiences about how money rules their industry and that those with deep advertising budgets can always have the leverage to determine what is published about them. When MTN Uganda was fined by the Uganda Communications Commission in March 2015, what was expected to be headline news remained buried in inner pages.

Peter Osborne the former Chief Political commentator of the Telegraph resigned after realising the double standards the newspaper had regarding reporting about some organisations. Articles on HSBC Bank couldn’t be published for fear of losing advertising revenue and in a scathing article, Why I have resigned from the Telegraph he stated, “… HSBC, as one former Telegraph executive told me, is “the advertiser you literally cannot afford to offend.”” Are we in a similar situation already? Are there advertisers that just cant be irked? One of the leading business moguls in the country is known for using his influence to determine what gets reported about him hence helping keep undercover most of the slippery deals he’s involved in.

Jonathan Cook, a British journalist in his article Corporate Media and the Intellectual Cleansing of Journalists, states “We understood, and our profession’s own mythologising encouraged such an understanding, that investigative reporting was the purest form of the journalist’s craft. In many ways it was the ideal. The investigative reporter is the exception in journalism rather than the model. He or she is the loose cannon whose reports can bring the paper great acclaim but only if the reporter is kept on a tight leash. The honour they bring the paper can equally turn disastrous if the wrong subjects are pursued or the story leads in unpredictable directions that threaten powerful interests.” Are there powerful interests that are No-Go for our media today?

Selective coverage of issues pertaining ‘powerful interests‘ is another form of fraud on us the readers. The duty of a media house is to bring the news to its readers, how then can corporate or political interests be placed at the fore? “A free press is essential to a healthy democracy. There is a purpose to journalism, and it is not just to entertain. It is not to pander to political power, big corporations and rich men. Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth.” Says Peter Osborne.

As you read this article, an entrepreneur can’t help but shed tears because they relate with the kind of treachery that has been exposed by the Ezee Money experience with MTN Uganda. MTN isn’t the only culprit in all this. I am sure there exist many similar stories across various sectors of the business landscape in Uganda. Many are not only cheated but also being manipulated into settling for less at the expense of perpetuating a very unhealthy business co-existence with larger industry players. Their only hope would be the media which if it genuinely stood for the truth could have helped expose their circumstances. It takes deep pockets as exhibited by Ezee Money and Digital Solutions to confront a heavyweight player. Pursuing a court case for three years is no mean feat and when faced with the choice of survival and an unending court case, the latter pales in significance.

Whenever they are faced with State inspired muzzling, the media is so quick to remind us about it’s independence and how it’s the Fourth Estate. However, what happens to the same independence when the very media is faced with wads of Dollars in potential advertising revenue?

It’s time to think hard, really hard.

Twitter: @wirejames

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MTN, Get a better excuse on Short Codes

The Stand off between MTN Uganda and Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) over the change in Short Codes has brought to the fore what Corporate arrogance can turn into when a company uses its financial and political muscle to panel beat any obstacle before it. It has been a well known fact that UCC always prefers to keep mum when the biggest contributor to the Rural Communications Development Fund and arguably the leading tax payer in the country is at fault. The arguments presented by the GM Corporate Affairs for not switching Codes are so pedestrian and I share with you why I believe so in this article.