Tanzania’s communication sector leaps into modern connectivity and digital progress

What you need to know:

  • Communication products and services have not only spurred Tanzania’s socio-economic development, but also they have escalated the towering twin agendas of blue and digital economies across all levels.

It goes without saying that the communication sector has significantly complemented the growth of other sectors.

Communication products and services have not only spurred Tanzania’s socio-economic development, but also they have escalated the towering twin agendas of blue and digital economies across all levels.

Based on its competitive nature, the delivery of communication services in the country has resulted in the drastic hike of the number of mobile networks operators (MNOs), ICT services usage, and wide-range of offerings to the users, institutions and the Government as well.

The proliferation of communication services is largely ascribed to the existing apt policies, superior laws and enabling management and licensing systems.

The year 2023 capped off an epic growth for the communication sector, projecting that the country is moving in the right direction with the sector.

A glimpse into ITU-WRC 2023 achievements

Tanzania participated in the World Radio communication Conference that was hosted the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Dubai from November 20 to December 15, 2023 under the coordination of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The conference was immediately convened upon the completion of a raft of surveys from which discussions were staged to influence informed decisions on frequency planning.

The forum, among other issues, dissected over 40 key topics for the country; including reviewing telecommunications frequency planning, marine transport and its safety, flight navigation and aviation safety, weather forecasting, communication in predicting and detecting disasters, television broadcasting, telecommunications and the Internet, frequencies for the use of radar and the collection of information through satellite orbits.

Additionally, frequency planning adhered to a significant regulation that clearly stipulates that every country is entitled to an equal right to the access to the frequency and satellite orbits in accordance with the Cap 44 of the governing ITU’s constitution.

Fortunately, the minister for Information, Communication and Information Technology, Mr Nape Nnauye, leading Tanzania’s delegation in signing the accords of the forum, noted that the country had achieved significantly in the communication sector as far as securing a new position on the satellite orbits at an inclination of 16 degrees west for the broadcasting-satellite services is concerned.

This is to fairly insinuate that Tanzania could have just run around the circles for years in broadcasting-satellite services if it wasn’t for this forum because of lacking such a space investment.

Positioning an orbit on the space opens doors for Tanzania to embark into space surveys and broadcasting-satellite services that would cater for the broadcasting sector growth.

The majority of the Tanzania-licensed broadcasters and that of Africa have subscribed to the top-tier global satellites, resulting in higher operating costs.

The orbit calls for the mega investors to debate over the possibility of locating a satellite out there in an effort to help the general public access direct reception of the radio communication services.

For his part, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) Director General, Dr Jabir Bakari, who signed the accord, shared his thoughts that landing such fresh frequencies will avail the country’s aeronautical and maritime communications.

Going forward, as the country espouses a blue economy trajectory, according to him, it also would strengthen the safety of air travel and marine transport.

Tanzania received an additional frequency that would enable the effective operationalisation of the 5G Internet possibly to the advanced 6G. The TCRA boss is upbeat that the new frequency will perfectly fast-track the digital economy.

On top of that, the country managed to secure online televisions (TV) on the UHF band, which is the frequency responsible for the provision of broadcasting services through land-based installations, namely DTT.

This means Tanzanians will continue to widely access this broadcasting service to keep in touch and develop themselves.

The completion and opening of the PAPU headquarters building, Arusha

In September 2023, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan, inaugurated the tallest building in Arusha, which is now the Headquarters of the Pan African Postal Union (PAPU).

During that important event, President Samia emphasized the importance of the building in promoting the postal sector in Africa, saying it was a historic event for Africa.

She also used that opportunity to congratulate the TCRA and PAPU on their strong cooperation that helped make that interesting project a success.

She added: “Honestly, I congratulate the TCRA and PAPU on completing this big project; this building will help promote the postal sector in Africa and improve services to the people.”

The PAPU Tower building has 17 floors, costing 54.86 billion, whose 60 percent was shared by PAPU, while the other 40 percent was covered by the TCRA as a project partner on behalf of the Government of Tanzania.

The construction of the PAPU Tower building was started in 2019 and completed in 2023. The building was constructed by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd under the close supervision of the TCRA.

The implemented project has not only beautified the landscape of the City of Arusha, but also has boosted productivity in other areas of the economy; including tourism, where conference and convention tourism will now gain grounds, considering that the building houses modern meeting halls.

The inauguration of the building was a symbol of the great success of the postal sector in the country, where Tanzania is now the headquarters of PAPU while getting additional benefits.

“This building will help improve postal services for African peoples and will strengthen international cooperation, while Tanzania will continue to gain an international reputation,” explained Oyuke Phoustine, PAPU Information Officer.

Tanzania coordinated the ITU-T SG20 Conference that discussed IoT, smart cities and communities, Arusha

The year 2023 also saw Tanzania host the International Telecommunication Industry Professionals Conference coordinated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in collaboration with Tanzania.

Known as the ITU-T SG20, the conference was held in Arusha City for two weeks, discussing technological standards in the Internet of Things (IoT), Smart Cities and Communities (SC&C).

This professional and high-level meeting was a success and a unique opportunity for Tanzania to be the host of this type of communication industry meetings that were often held in other countries, especially in Switzerland.

The ITU-T SG20 is a working group that focuses on the telecommunications sector and its responsibility is to manage, prepare standards and recommend the quality of electronic communication used in the world.

Additionally, ITU-T SG20 is responsible for identifying and listing the requirements for standards for the Internet of Things (IoT), developing and approving standards for IoT and smart cities and communities and collaborating with other ITU groups and other standards organisations to ensure that IoT and SC&C standards meet internationally accepted standards.

Dr Bakari said the holding of the meeting in the country was an important issue because it enabled more experts to attend, a move that will be beneficial for the country.

“This is an honour for our country to have the opportunity to organize these professional meetings because they are usually held in Switzerland, our experts and many more have been able to attend an issue that is healthy for the communication sector in our country,” he said.

“The conference focused on seven questions that experts came out with complete answers that will be used as a standard line for the whole world on the Internet of Things technology that is IoT, these questions include; security, privacy, stability, and recognition of the Internet of Things, Cities and Communities digital; Ease of use of the Internet of Things, Internet of Things applications, Cities and digital Communities; The needs, capabilities, and technical structure in all sectors involving the Internet of Things, including agriculture, transportation, finance, public services, and the environment; Internet of Things and Digital Cities and Communities structures, protocols, quality of service, and quality of experience; Data analysis, collaboration, processing, and management, as well as aspects of large data in the Internet of Things and Digital Cities and Communities; The study of emerging digital technologies, languages, and definitions and Valuation and assessment of sustainable digital cities and communities,” he noted.

Tanzania’s Deputy Minister for Information, Communications and Information Technology, Eng Kundo Mathew, for his part, said Tanzania will not be left behind in using the technologies discussed at the meeting, noting that the Government has already identified the City of Dodoma as a model city, a beautiful city and digital city.

The Mayor of the Dodoma City, Prof Davis Mwamfupe, who attended the meeting together with the Deputy Minister, noted that the city, which is the country’s capital, has already made all the necessary preparations to make it a model ‘smart city’ i.e. a beautiful city.

Increase in the number users of telecom and internet services

According to the TCRA, the number of the users of communication services increased in the year 2023, whereby until September 2023 there were 67.12 million phone lines from 64.01 million lines in June 2023, equivalent to an increase of 4.86 percent.

The number of phone lines includes those lines used by holders on the networks of six (6) service providers, namely Airtel, Vodacom, Halotel, TTCL, Tigo and Smile. Also, the number of Internet users increased by 1.24 percent from 34,047,407 users in June 2023 to 34,469,022 in September 2023.

Dr Bakari said some of the main factors contributing to the increase in Internet use is the presence of Swahili content on the Internet including the proliferation of applications in the Swahili language.

Mobile phones continued to spiral financial inclusion The TCRA data for the month of September 2023 showed that Tanzania is increasingly developing an integrated financial system due to the increase in the number of users who make transactions through mobile phones, while the data for the first quarter of 2023/2024 showed that money transfer services through mobile phones rose from 47,275,660 accounts in June 2023 to reach 51,369,347 in September 2023, which is an increase of 8.7 percent.

Additionally, the number of financial transactions increased from 420,675,884 for the period ending in June 2023 to 422,390,546 transactions by September 2023.

Digital club startups and operation book launch

The TCRA on Thursday, November 2, 2023, launched a book on the establishment and coordination of digital clubs to facilitate the establishment and coordination of digital clubs in schools, colleges and universities in the country.

The inaugural ceremony was led by the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Information, Communications and Information Technology, Hon. Mohammed Khamis Abdulla.

Mr Abdulla said the Government is in the process of completing the Innovation Policy that will ensure digital technology designers benefit and become productive participants in building Digital Tanzania.

The PS emphasized that digital clubs play an important role in encouraging students to learn and love STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which are of great importance in developing the skills of the digital economy needed to successfully build a digital Tanzania.

The TCRA has continued to promote the establishment of digital clubs in various schools and colleges in the country. Dr Bakari stated; “Digital clubs will help students become responsible digital citizens and contribute to the development of Digital Tanzania.”

He also said the TCRA had initiated the idea of digital clubs in colleges and universities in 2022, and that the programme had since expanded to include colleges and universities and is now expected to be expanded to all educational institutions, where the TCRA collaborates with TAMISEMI, the Ministry of Education, TCU and NACTVET to ensure that educational institutions across Tanzania support the digital club programme with the aim of stimulating the development of the digital and blue economy in Tanzania.

The Construction and improvement of communication towers

The year 2023 witnessed a major step that expanded communication services, whereby the government, through the Universal Communications Service Access Fund (UCSAF) entered into an agreement with four service providers (AIRTEL, TTCL, TIGO and VODACOM) to increase the power of 304 towers from 2G to 3G and 4G.

The implementation of this project is ongoing well. Until December 2023, 119 towers had already been strengthened and completed, once this programme run by UCSAF is completed, about 8.5 million Tanzanians will have access to communication services while the construction of more than 600 new towers continues to be implemented in areas with communication challenges in collaboration with the Government through UCSAF and communication service providers in the country.

Minister Nnauye, speaking during the signing of the agreement on the construction and strengthening of the towers, insisted that the Government’s goal is to ensure that all areas inaccessible to communication services in the country, including reserves and roads, become accessible and passable.

The article has been prepared by the Public Relations and Communication Unit at TCRA