On Tuesday Feb. 4th, 2014, the CEO of MTN Cameroon, Karl Toriola, hosted the first ever MTN Cameroon Google Hangout during which he answered a series of questions from Internet users on issues ranging from the absence of an MTN 3G network in Cameroon, the regulatory limitations that prevent the use of the WACS undersea cable and deployment of a broadband network across the country, MTN’s plans for Mobile Money and e-commerce solutions, high voice and internet prices, among others.
The MTN CEO talked extensively about the regulatory limitations preventing MTN from offering many of the services (3G, broadband, etc.) that it offers in other countries. Here are some choice excerpts:
On the absence of an MTN 3G network in Cameroon
Telecom operators can only operate a 3G network under licensing from the government. We have a license to operate a 2G license only… in terms of the CEMAC region [Cameroon is] probably one of the furthest behind in terms of 3G technology… CAR, Congo Brazzaville, etc. have already launched 3G networks.
On the effects of regulatory limitations on MTN Services and Pricing
We are limited by our inability to deploy 3G and 4G which will revolutionize access to broadband technology and reduce cost because we will be using technology currently used on a mass scale across the world.
We are also restricted from the perspective of how we carry internet traffic outside of Cameroon and even within Cameroon. In the licensing regime that we have today in the country, we are not yet allowed to use our submarine cable service, the WACS (West Africa Cable System), in Cameroon, which we use to carry Internet and international voice traffic. This makes the cost of broadband in Cameroon extremely expensive unlike in other countries were liberalized submarine cable access policies and regimes have led to competition and reduced costs.
Our ability to lay fiber in the country is also limited by the regulatory environment. Once we have the permission to do this, you’ll see massive rollout of capacity of fiber and an improvement of broadband penetration across the country. Butt until the laws of Cameroon allow this we are restricted in being able to catch up with some of the technology evolutions which are happening in other places.