Operators voluntarily reduced data cost

Observer Money (OM): Describe the year 2023 in terms of the business environment?

Emilia Nghikembua, Chief Executive Officer of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN), (EN): Affordability: At the beginning of 2023, CRAN held a consultation with operators to reduce the cost of data. As a result of this consultations operators voluntarily reduced the cost of data resulting in our improved ranking both at regional and international level: Namibia holds the 20th position in Sub-Saharan Africa. This reflects an improvement from its 2020 ranking of 27th. On a global scale, Namibia holds the 169th position, showing progress from its 2020 ranking of 176th.

Technological Evolution: CRAN released the 700 MHz and 800 MHz bands for 4G and 5G network deployment via spectrum auction. CRAN also imposed licence conditions for the deployment of 4G networks to regions that have below 80 percent population coverage. The Authority also issued a trial licence for 5G to ensure the deployment of quality networks that will swiftly respond to the needs of industry and commerce.

Cyber Security: CRAN published the RFC2350 to announce the establishment of Nam-CSIRT. The primary responsibility of the NAM-CSIRT is to enhance Namibia’s cyber response capabilities in the ever-evolving cybersecurity threats, fostering a secure and resilient digital environment. The CSIRT will be the official national coordinating point for cybersecurity matters, threats, incidents, and information.

Opportunities for Growth: Generally, the telecommunications sector presents opportunities for growth through private investments or foreign direct investments in the deployment of digital infrastructure, especially in remote areas. The opening of the NamPower fibre network on an open access principle also presents opportunities for last mile connectivity or the expansion of fiber routes to neighboring countries.

The undersea cables landing at Swakopmund remain great potential for Namibia to become a powerhouse for internet connectivity through the establishment of diplomatic data corridors with landlocked neighbors in the SADC region.

OM: What was the biggest challenge that CRAN faced in 2023?

EN: Our biggest challenge was limited revenue due to litigation. This is because the legal instrument that enables us to collect 60 percent of revenue has been under litigation since 2012. This leaves us with limited resources to defray the cost of regulation and the effective implementation of the integrated strategic plan.

OM: What is the company looking to achieve in 2024?

EN: 2024 will be the second year of our three-year integrated strategic plan. We intend to successfully implement initiatives around affordability of ICT services and products for consumers and ensure that operators improve quality of service to enhance customer experience.

Universal access to ICT services and products remains a key priority for Namibia. There is a need to ensure universal affordable access and inclusive adoption, supported by robust resilient and secure infrastructure. This can typically be achieved through the deployment of a universal service fund to ensure that all citizens have meaningful connectivity. The operationalisation of the universal service fund, hopefully in 2024 thus remains a key enabler for digital transformation in Namibia.

OM: What do you see as the possible biggest challenge in 2024?

EN: The evolution of emerging technologies such adaptive artificial intelligence and its transformative nature, continue to influence many aspects of our lives. Benefits may be harnessed for healthcare, education, climate change and tourism. While AI drives efficiencies and innovation, the absence of a policy or legislative framework enabling the adoption of such technologies in Namibia, will present a regulatory challenge.

OM: What is your final message for your stakeholders?

EN: CRAN emphasizes building strong relationships with internal employees and external stakeholders to achieve future goals. Proactive engagement with various stakeholders ensures access to competitive communications services and protection from exploitation.

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