OPINIONS: The telecoms, the banks and the regulator

In a spell of two weeks there are three headlines that this column will to dwell on.  On 6th March The New Times reported, ‘Network breakdown affects banks.’ On the 12th March there were two headlines. The first, “Rwandatel fires 120 employees’ and the other ‘MTN explains network hitches.’

In a spell of two weeks there are three headlines that this column will to dwell on.  On 6th March The New Times reported, ‘Network breakdown affects banks.’ On the 12th March there were two headlines. The first, “Rwandatel fires 120 employees’ and the other ‘MTN explains network hitches.’

The telecoms
Rwandatel’s network in Ruhengeri broke down twice in a period of one month affecting banking activities in that small town.

This is the same company, which lost a deal to host web servers of a well deserving client, ‘Lotto Rwanda’ just months ago.

Then came MTN the only other competitor reporting hitches in their connections. MTN subscribers began experiencing network interruptions on the 8th of March, failing to make or receive calls between 2:30 pm and 9 pm in the evening disrupting several business activities.

Mostly pre-paid subscribers suffered for over three days. The agony to users was that they desperately bustled their way to Rwandatel’s SIM cards as the only alternative to a ‘seemingly steady connection’. But that is not all.

What  bothered me is the arrogance of telecoms. Three weeks down the road Rwandatel has not come up to make an explanation to clients.

MTN somehow managed to do so, but only several days after whispers. For MTN it was ‘tongue-in-cheek’, the gist that even brought out the best of our sense of humor.

Why convene all the company’s top guns including the CEO the COO and a Senior Marketing and Sales official to explain that the break down was caused by a failing switch?

Are people at the Nyarutarama Head Office less busy than they seem to be?

The banks
Whereas mobile users in Rwanda have doubled from 6 percent in 2006 to 12 percent by end of last year, access to ICT services in the rural areas like Ruhengeri are still at disparity.

Banking services as well, according to the Governor of the Central Bank attract some 12.4 percent of Rwandans.

The government is working round the clock to increase numbers to reasonable figures in order to achieve Vision 2020.

ICT tools and services as we all know can seriously improve access to financial services. Banking doesn’t have to be a physical service.

With just the use of a simple ATM card, Internet or phone banking we are instantly ‘click and mortar’. The question is: How can we achieve all this in situations like these?

How can a commercial bank with the above prospects in mind depend only one leased Rwandatel line? How can a financial institution as large as Bank of Kigali in Musanze not deploy a back-up to avert such a crisis?

ICT usage has stopped being a matter of preference, it is now a prerequisite. That is why mobile subscribers hold or purchase two or more connections.

In case Rwandatel is down, users regardless of how strong one’s brand name is immediately switch to another. Users cross over networks just in case the other is down.

From the press reports only Commercial Bank of Rwanda (BCR) stayed on-line. And this was because it used a different service provider for its connections.

The banks ought to style–up! As a prerequisite they ought to lease both Rwandatel and MTN in case one continues to be increasingly disappointing.

And when the newly licensed Tigo connects later this year, they ought to purchase its services as extra back-up too.

The regulator
Last year I voted RURA as the best institution of the year. And this was because, the regulatory body, against all odds fined MTN for what looked like continued network failures.

I am now just wondering why the same watchdog didn’t bite when Rwandatel was busy disappointing clients and frustrating businesses in Ruhengeri. Isn’t this an act of double standards?

SIMTEL even with its repeated hitches on their ATM connections, of course provided by one of the above telecoms still remains untouched.

Shouldn’t the watchdog perhaps change to a barking dog?

keziodk@yahoo.com

 

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