The fourth generation (4G) broadband system penetration currently covers about 45% of the population with more than 250 radio base stations. This is according to Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA).
Presenting before the Parliamentarians recently, the Authority’s acting chief executive officer Tshoganetso Kepaletswe said the third generation (3G) systems cover 57% of the population with more than 640 radio base stations.
“Mobile broadband services is mainly accessed through portable modems known as dongles, smart phones, USB wireless modem, tablets just to mention but a few,” he revealed.
He said mobile broadband subscriptions for 2016 as at March last year stood at 1.3 million which improved to 1.4 million by December the same year. During the same time in March last year, broadband penetration was at 67%, which went up by three percent in December registering 70%.
On the pre-paid data packages, Orange Botswana offers the lowest rates as 1GB cost P79 while its competitor Mascom charges P129 for 1GB with BTCL charging P125 for 1GB.
“The authority encourages consumers to shop around for the best service and also purchase data packages to benefit from the lower in-bundle rates,” he said.
However, Kepaletswe said to enhance the competition on the local access network the Authority has released the spectrum for the fixed wireless access and the licensing is currently on-going. He said bilateral negotiations with some neighbouring countries are on-going with a view to signing some agreements that will facilitate lowering transit charges.
He said discussions with local authorities are still ongoing with regard to including radio base stations during planning stages.
According to Kepaletswe the Authority is currently experiencing challenges with the quality of the services, noting that service providers are facing difficulties to get radio base stations in certain areas to alleviate congestion.
He said the universal service is not economically viable to provide services throughout the country without subsidy. Due to the 3G and 4G roll out obligations imposed on the service providers, the cost of providing mobile broadband is still relatively high in comparison with other countries.
“There is a need to develop the relevant consumer online content so that the general public can benefit from the improved broadband access connectivity and the service providers are facing delays and high charges for the environmental impact assessment and local authorities approvals,” he said.
Further he said there are no plots in towns and major villages reserved for the radio base stations adding that landlords charge very high tariffs for the radio base stations to be installed in their premises.
“Transit charges through some countries to access the submarine cables are still relatively high and uncompetitive and issues of cyber crime is a major concern for the authority,” he said.