The end of 4G internet monopoly in Rwanda will enable competition, facilitate the development of new products, as well as lower prices for users, telecommunication companies have argued. They made the observations on Thursday, June 1, at the Senate, during a consultative session on actions in line with developing ICT in Rwanda. During the session, issues that were discussed with various ICT stakeholders, revolve around the high cost of internet which makes its usage stand at only 22.8 per cent among Rwandan residents, and inadequate internet connection that slows online service delivery. ALSO READ: Ending internet monopoly will expedite 4G uptake – ICT minister The usage was even lower for 4G internet specifically is estimated to be only 2 per cent among the population, said ICT and Innovation Minister, Paula Ingabire. Yet, she indicated that currently, 95 per cent of the populated areas in the country are covered by 2G and 3G, while 96 per cent is covered by 4G internet infrastructure. The end of internet monopoly is provided for in the National Broadband Policy and Strategy released in October 2022, by the Ministry of ICT and Innovation. Before the policy revision, Minister Ingabire said, there was internet monopoly enjoyed by one firm – Korea Telecom Rwanda Networks (KTRN) as the only internet whole in the country – which was resulting in high internet costs such as for 4G, as telecommunication companies had no other option apart from buying internet from it and retail it to Rwandan residents. Still, she said, the situation was slowing the adoption of next-generation internet products such as 5G. ALSO READ: Rwanda intends to take away 4G monopoly from KTRN MTN Rwanda CEO Mapula Bodibe said that they want to provide users with affordable data for 4G, but also introduce other products as a result of the reform brought about by the relatively new policy. “One of the biggest constraints we have is that we haven’t been able to offer affordable data because of the wholesale cost from [the single internet wholesaler]. So, the removal of the wholesale cost will allow us to pass that to the user and enable them to pay lower fees,” she said. Moreover, she said, it is going to allow them to venture into future technologies. “We spoke about 5G internet. This is something we are very interested in, and something we are working towards. And this is also one of the enablers for even faster technologies,” she said. ALSO READ: Rwanda gears up for 5G network The broadband policy vision aims to accelerate Rwanda into a competitive and innovative global digital economy, through accessible and quality broadband – transmission of wide bandwidth data over a high-speed internet connection – services. To accelerate the access and adoption of broadband mobile services for all, it is projected the policy will enable 4G, 5G and beyond by liberalising technology deployments and wireless access spectrum assignments to ensure that all operators have the ability to deploy such advanced broadband services. ALSO READ: Rwanda set to pilot 5G internet On financial implications, to achieve the objectives and targets identified in the five-year policy (2022/23-2026/27, a budget estimated at Rwf200 billion will be invested, mainly by the private sector with catalytic seed funding by the government, according to the policy document. Airtel Rwanda Managing Director, Emmanuel Hamez, said “the 3G technology that we are using now is covering all the population”, but has a lot of limitations in terms of frequencies, speed and stability. He said he believes “4G will significantly increase the quality of service.” For him, the new policy that opens the competition on 4G, and 5G technology “is something which is critical and which will have direct and immediate effect on the quality [of internet]”. “I believe that this new policy to have the completion in 4G will really be a game changer,” he expressed, adding that it will support increase internet capacity.