Vodafone CEO calls for predictable telecom sector regulations

The Chief Executive Officer of the Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific Region of Vodafone, Nick Read has called on telecom sector regulators in developing countries to make regulations predictable to enable players safeguard their investments.

He said players are making huge investments into products and services that are relevant to the masses, but unpredictable changes in regulations in those countries are a threat to their investments.

Mr. Read was speaking at the ongoing Financial Times World Telecom Conference in London, where about 100 telecom operators, analysts, regulators and journalists from around the world, are meeting to brainstorm on ‘smart moves for changing times’ in the telecom sector.

Adom News Editor, and Ghana Journalist Association’s Best Telecoms Reporter, 2009, Samuel Dowuona is attending the conference.

Mr. Read said “we (telecom operators) are committed to these countries and we are making huge investments into services that the people want – we cannot have regulatory framework and formulae moving around because it undermines our investments.”

He also noted that there was the need for sustainable market structure in the telecom sectors of developing country, saying regulators in those countries allow too much competition, which impacts negatively on operators’ commitment to invest more for fear of losing.

“Too much competition makes operators hold back their investments because their profits are under threat, and that means the needed investments into rural connectivity and infrastructure suffers,” he said.

Mr. Read says regulators should rather focus on partnering telecom operators to deliver value for the masses in the developing countries.

He tells Adom News that since he took over as CEO for the Africa region, he is yet to visit Ghana and ascertain the regulatory environment before he can comment specifically on Ghana.

Mr. Read said Vodafone acknowledges that African countries want to let telecom operators play a more African role and Vodafone is willing to help in that direction, but there is need to make the regulatory framework friendly for mutual benefit.

The CEO of British Telecom Regulator, Ofcom, Ed Richards noted that regulation should focus on promoting investment and encouraging healthy competition.

“But ultimately regulation should seek the interest of the consumer and ensure that players deliver value for money and transparent services to consumers,” he said.

Mr. Richards said regulations, by any stretch of imagination, should ensure that consumers know exactly what they are receiving, how much they are paying and give them the freedom to switch networks at will and enjoy as much freedom from operators as possible.

“The regulatory framework must empower consumers to know what they are getting from their service provider and what they are being denied of,” he said.

In Ghana, the Minister of Communication, Haruna Iddrisu recently announced the regulator will probe the tariff war and gaming practices of the telecom operators to ensure their activities are transparent to consumers.

He has also warned telecom operators to ensure that their text and win promotions are done within the gaming laws of the country or they risk sanctions.

The minister is also a strong advocate for Mobile Number Portability (MNP) and is stressing on a system that allows the network to which the consumer is porting to, to initiate the move, and thereby prevent the losing network from sabotaging the consumer.

By Samuel Dowuona

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