Regulator and MTN on warpath once again over network hitches

Monday May 23 2022
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Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority had directed MTN Rwanda to solve network challenges subscribers are subjected to. Picture: Cyril Ndegeya

By Ange Iliza

Telecommunication regulator and MTN are on a warpath over failed deadlines to fix network challenges subscribers are subjected to when making calls.

Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (Rura) had earlier set deadlines twice for the telecommunication company to fi x its network to facilitate quality service to subscribers. Rura had extended the deadline from October 2021 to March this year for MTN to fix major network challenges in Kigali.

But Kigali residents continue to face challenges like weak Internet connectivity and drop calls. However, the deadlines were missed, with the leading telecommunication company in the country blaming the regulator for some challenges they are facing and have requested for deadline extension to July.

The regulator had extended its enforcement deadline from October 2021 to March this year for MTN to have fixed major network issues in Kigali.

MTN Rwanda blames Rura for taking long to provide licenses needed to build new sites with improved capacity to curb network challenges. Rura on other hand says MTN has not used the available licenses and views this only as an excuse. Kigali needs 106 new sites and 182 existing sites need expansion out of only 56 have been built or expanded since August last year.

“Rura’s deadline to fi x all network issues by last October was technically unrealistic. We held a meeting and explained the technical process and they agreed to extend the deadline to March this year which is still too soon. MTN has limited control over the process involved, we need compliance from different institutions for us to work,” said Eugene Gakwerere, Chief Technical Officer at MTN Rwanda.


As the economy reopens from the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Gakwerere said the need for quality network and fast Internet is increasing in both residential areas, business centers and offices. He expects the demand to increase even further as Rwanda prepares to host over 5,000 attendants of the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting in less than a month.

MTN Rwanda invested Rwf34 billion in fixing network issues in 2021 and plans to invest Rwf42 billion in 2022. Both RURA and MTN Rwanda did not give a fixed timeline of when network issues will be fixed.

Some subscribers and businesses who spoke to Rwanda Today expressed disappointment in persistent Internet and network issues. They mostly complained about mobile money transfer cuts and poor internet connection in offices and during
evening hours. It was a relief for some when Rura gave MTN Rwanda, which serves 6.4 million Rwandans, setting October 29, 2021, as the deadline to fix the network problem or face sanctions.

“The notice was long overdue. The public has been decrying poor MTN services ever since I can remember. Unfortunately, nothing has changed in my area. I still can’t use the Internet in the evening at my house in the Kacyiru area because it is very slow,” said Bagabo Damascene, a resident of Kacyiru, Gasabo district.

According to MTN Rwanda’s CTO, 25 percent of claims received by the telco come from tall buildings in Kigali such as hotels, business centers and offices. Unfortunately, said Mr Gakwerere, there is little MTN can do to fix the problem. Mr Gakwerere told Rwanda Today that for a building taller than three stories to access a stable internet connection, the house owner needs around Rwf20 million to install an In-Building Solution before MTN can assist.

Less than four buildings in Kigali have the system. Mr. Gakwerere said building owners need to be made aware of the requirement before complaining.

“We pay Rwf250,000 for unlimited internet per month but sometimes I have to go to work from home because the internet is faster there than at my office. It is very disappointing that Rwanda wants to attract businesses but still has network issues,” said Mugabe Logan, a communications specialist with an office at the Kigali Business Center building.