The Transport and Communications minister, Kitso Mokaila says while voice call charges are not expensive, mobile data charges in Botswana remain very high.
Responding to a question in Parliament, the minister said the reality is that phone charges are not expensive; explaining that what is, in fact, expensive is mobile data.
“The reason advanced for this is because of the spatial distribution of our population and therefore, the infrastructure that goes with it to get to them is expensive.”
Mokaila said the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) regulates the prices and that they are within what the government believes should be realised for the infrastructure that they have. He further noted that voice calls are all but disappearing and that Internet services are gradually coming to the fore to replace the traditional mode of communication.
Mokaila also pointed out that the government is putting together a broadband base around the country in a bid to connect every household and business to the government broadband through the Botswana Fibre Networks (BoFiNet), which he said would bring down the charges.
The minister of parliament for Francistown East, Buti Billy had asked the minister to explain why mobile phone companies; Mascom, Orange and beMOBILE (BTC), continue to charge ‘exorbitant’ phone and data charges. Billy had also wanted the minister to state what is being done to address the concerns.
Last year a report by Stock Exchange Botswana stated that mobile phone providers placed too much importance on mobile data services. Experts say in the long term, this will leave them bereft of customers, as more and more people turn to more reliable ways of accessing the Internet.
Botswana is always languishing at the bottom of best for Internet access International lists, as providers continue to charge extortionate fees for below standard Internet. In 2017, a time during which Internet access has become a basic necessity for most people around the world; the Botswana Stock Exchange’s 2015 findings on Internet usage in Botswana show that Botswana still has a long way to go;
At the time, Mobile Internet penetration stood at 59% (up from 49% the previous year), while fixed Internet penetration was 5%.