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Telecommunications

Under the Communications Regulatory Authority Act 2012, BOCRA has complete authority - within the guidelines established by the 1995 Telecommunication Policy - to license all operators.  The telecommunications industry continues to experience significant growth in terms of the total number of consumers of telecommunications services especially the mobile technology.

The Telecommunications/ICT sector has undergone numerous reforms since the introduction of competition in 1998. Currently three Public Telecommunication Operators (PTOs) provide local, international, national and mobile services. The market structure for local services, domestic long distance services, market for international long distance services and market structure for mobile services has been partly liberalised. The market for private networks is fully liberalised as VANS may provide services using any technology including VSAT. The market for terminal equipment trade is also fully liberalised as no telecommunications licence is required to sell terminal equipment, however, vendors for radio equipment have to be approved by the BOCRA, as one of the functions of the BOCRA is to type approve such equipment.

The market for Internet telephony is also fully liberalised, and Value Added Network Service providers (VANS) are allowed to provide VoIP. The number of PTOs has been restricted to three as a policy decision. In 2006, the Government of Botswana decided to privatise the incumbent, BTC. The process was kick-started and is yet to be concluded.

In 2008 the BOCRA undertook a market study that revealed that the mobile market was functioning well, with strong penetration and coverage levels in comparison to benchmarks. The study concluded that no PTO had Significant Market Power (SMP), evidence of effective competition. On the mobile telephony front that study revealed that Botswana will continue to experience a strong growth in the prepaid market due to multiple subscriptions.

The study however found that there was SMP in the fixed local/national voice, leased line, and international voice markets. Despite this, the local/national voice market was performing appropriately. The lack of differential between prices for wholesale-leased lines and retail prices is indicative of abuse of SMP and needs regulatory intervention.

Pricing has always been a very important aspect of the BOCRA's regulatory measures particularly on the fixed line market. In 2005 the BOCRA requested the BTC to embark on a tariff rebalancing exercise which essentially aligned prices of services with costs. This resulted in large increases in line rental, local and national call charges, and a significant reduction in international call prices.

Usage of the Internet in Botswana is still in its infancy, with low Internet penetration and extremely low broadband penetration due to a number of factors including high computer prices, high cost of services, low IT literacy, a lack of local Internet content, power supply problems and a perception of low-quality service. The 2008 study established that the international data gateway market in Botswana is not yet competitive and that the ADSL access, leased lines and international data markets potentially need price regulation.