Google's CSquared challenges regulators over network sharing

CSquared, Google’s African infrastructure firm, has challenged Ugandan regulators to put into place structures that support network sharing agreements, saying adoption is currently being led by the market.

Suzan Kitariko, country manager for Uganda at CSquared, told a panel at Capacity Africa that for infrastructure sharing to be successful, regulators need to introduce frameworks supporting them – something, she argued, that is currently lacking in Uganda and other African countries.

She said: “Infrastructure sharing in the companies we operate in is operator driven because there is still a lack of framework in countries like Uganda. Regulators are trying to build these, but it is operators driving these models.

“If we have the right structure in place, then the regulator is capable of driving infrastructure sharing. In some markets we’ve seen this work very efficiently. If you have the right guidelines and policies it can work really well, but that is what is lacking at the moment, especially in markets like Uganda.

“How do you frame it out and make sure you have the proper pricing that benefits the end user. There are a lot of challenges, but regulators need to work with operators closely to overcome these.”

Vivian Ddambya, director of technical services at NITA Uganda, pointed to the Tanzanian model as an example where network sharing works well.

“The Tanzanian model has been very competitive and we’ve actually struck a partnership with them. While that model has some drawbacks, with one provider offering infrastructure sharing, I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.”

However, Ben Roberts, Liquid Telecom’s CTO, dismissed this, saying Tanzania had actually seen a number of problems and was difficult to work with from a wholesale point of view.

“I wouldn’t give a testimonial for Tanzania. Not only are prices very inflexible, the network was also built expensively, and the task of maintaining it and running it by a national operator is not favourable. It needs to be quality.

“If the custodian of the network doesn’t look after it properly, you are going to have a very difficult relationship with them.”