Members of Parliament yesterday challenged the government to harmonise call charges by telecommunication companies to reduce the burden of people carrying more than one mobile phone in a bid to cut costs.
The lawmakers also hit at mobile phone companies for causing inconveniences to customers by sending messages or calls which are unnecessary to the people.
They were contributing to the budget estimates for the Ministry of Science and Technology amounting to 70,107,712,000/- for the fiscal year 2012/2013.
Reading the recommendations of the Official Opposition in Parliament on behalf of Shadow Minister of Communication Science and Technology Susan Lyimo, Arumeru East Legislator Joshua Nassari said that communication charges in the country were high making it difficult for low income people to access the service.
“Majority of Tanzanians expected that with the formation of Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority the telecommunication charges could be reduced and harmonised but it has not been so,” he pointed.
He said TCRA should harmonise the charges because people were tired of walking with more than one phone with different networks, seeking to reduce call costs.
“Is it true that there are no laws that will require mobile phone companies to set charges rationally?” queried Nassari.
He said historically owners of the mobile phone companies justified the high charges on operational costs, partly due to payment of satellite charges, but now there was optic fibre whose costs were lower.
The lawmaker said that TCRA should also prohibit calculation of interconnection charges, frequency charges as well as royalty fees in dollars.
The opposition also called on TCRA to assist the government in ensuring that telecommunication companies pay fair taxes so that the sector contributes fairly to the country’s economy.
He said that mobile phone users have increased from 90,198 in 1995 to 23,979,870 in 2011, but despite the increase the government has been losing 1.7trn/- in revenue due to lack of call monitoring system and corporate tax.
The Parliamentary Infrastructure Committee recommended that the government harmonise the telecommunication charges for it to speed up its development.
Reading the recommendations on behalf of the Committee Chairman Peter Serukamba, Committee member Prof Juma Kapuya said that charges were high especially when a person made a call to a different network provider.
The committee advised the government to continue convincing mobile phone companies to remove the interconnection charges, he said.
Prof Kapuya said that removing the cost will reduce the burden on Tanzanians of not only making the calls but also requiring more than one sim card.
He said the mobile phone companies should compete basing on charges, scope of the network, better services and customer care.
A special Seats MP Rizik Omar Juma (CUF) said although telecommunication services have been expanded, the charges were high thus undermining Tanzanians who are low income earners.
She also accused the telecommunication companies for sending messages or making unnecessary calls which irritate some of their customers.
Juma called on the government to look for ways of controlling such unnecessary services.
Kigoma –North legislator Zitto Kabwe said that telecommunication companies were earning about 43bn/- annually from the ringtone business.
He said the mobile phone companies were using ringtones of various artistes in the country but at the end 80 percent of the revenue go to mobile companies, 13percent to middlemen with only 7 percent going to artistes.
“This is unfair. Our youths are struggling to come up with the tones but a company which only provide a network service is getting 80percent of the revenue, while the artist ends up getting only 7 percent,” Zitto said.
He said accused one company of conducting its businesses illegally, saying it had no license but had entered into a contract with Airtel and Vodacom.
The outspoken politician called upon the government to work on the matter to ensure that Tanzanian artistes benefit from their work.