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Shared infrastructure policy will unlock job opportunities

Publishing Date : 03 September, 2019

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The recent decision by cabinet to approve the Communication Shared infrastructure policy as motivated by the regulator in Botswana Regulatory Communications Authority (BOCRA) is highly welcome. This considering that the worldwide, infrastructure sharing in communications industry is being embraced because of the benefits associated with the practice.

Infrastructure sharing in the communications industry is considered the best practice in undertaking business in the communications industry where competitors collaborate in order to lower their increasing capital costs and mitigate the risk of proliferating network deployment.  
This undertaking was embarked one at the inception of the mobile telecommunications companies in 1998, when the regulatory Authority mandated the newly licensed mobile operators to lease facilities from the incumbent operator, Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) and utilise the backhaul transmission and international gateway of BTC to encourage quicker deployment of services.

BOCRA, under the auspices of the previous regulator, Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) had recommended government to establish a separate entity to provide the services at wholesale level on an open access to all other operators. BTA wanted the company to own the national backbone infrastructure, 65 international connectivity bandwidth, national terrestrial broadcasting network and broadcasting satellite bandwidth. As part of government approval of the communications shared infrastructure policy, all transmission services have been transferred to the Botswana Fibre Network (BoFINET) to manage.

The implication of the policy among others means that, Mass Media, will now share its infrastructure with the private content producers. This infrastructure range from use of the satellite services to the use of studious under rental/lease arrangement model.
It is no secret that Mass Media has state-of-the-art facilities which are dominant. It is then necessary to use these facilities in a manner that will benefit government and the private sector.  The main agenda of the government is to create jobs and also increase access to services for the greater public.

This is a welcome development bearing in mind that the costs that are associated with the TV and Film production industry have been impediment to growth of the sector. Actually, such heavy capital investment required meant it was a no go area for the private companies. Now with the availability of other avenues, through leased or rented facilities or infrastructure, many citizen companies will be able to produce content both for local and foreign market.

This also means that there is a possibility of seeing private companies successfully running a television station with a national coverage, which has been a mirage for years. The availability of satellite services has guaranteed such a possibility. The Film and TV production has possibility of creating thousands of jobs in the country. The recent decision is also complemented by the fact that over the past 10 year or so, government have been training students in the field of Film and TV productions at institutions such as AFDA and Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.

There have also been complaints from the private sector regarding the occupation of commercial activities by BTV and RB2 in commercial activities. This was so because government media is not subjected to regulation by BORCA yet, it unfairly competes with the private media companies in the commercial space. Of course there is the down side of the recent decision, especially to those citizen companies which have been in the business of renting studios. It is obvious that private companies would not be able to compete with the Mass Media when it comes to product offering, given the fact that the latter will be more sophisticated and even cheaper to rent.

But the greater goal should the one one that would contribute meaningful to the economy as far as job creation is concerned. The ability to produce content for foreign markets would even be an added advantage for the country, as jobs will be created locally while the content is sold for foreign audience.  It is worth noting that this infrastructure sharing is not only limited to broadcasting sector, but the entire industry including the broadband and mobile networks which would then effectively mean that access to internet at cheaper price to the wider population.