Policy reforms have led to Tanzania’s telecom sector becoming among the most liberal in Africa, according to Research & Markets.
However, high import tariffs on telecoms equipment and taxes on telephone facilities by various authorities are still placing a burden on investors and operators. The government has actively embraced competition in the telecom market and has encouraged the private sector despite it having retaken control of the incumbent telco TTC (formerly TTCL) in June 2016. Foreign participation has also been encouraged to promote economic growth and social development.
Tanzania has two fixed-line operators (TTC and Zantel) and eight operational mobile networks, with four additional players licensed under a new converged regulatory regime. With four major operators Vodacom, Bharti Airtel (formerly Zain), Tigo and Zantel mobile penetration has reached 83% by March 2017. In recent years a price war among these players has adversely affected the smaller operators, which have suffered from customer churn.
The converged licensing regime has brought many new players into the market. The liberalisation of Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony as well as the introduction of third and fourth generation (3G, LTE) mobile services and wireless broadband networks has boosting the internet sector which has been otherwise hampered by the low level of development of the traditional fixed-line network.
Following the launch of mobile broadband services the mobile network operators have become the leading internet service providers. Operators are hoping for revenue growth in the mobile data services market, given that the voice market is almost entirely prepaid and voice ARPU continues to fall. To this end they have invested in network upgrades. A fast-developing source of revenue is from mobile money transfer and m-banking services.
The landing of the first fibre optic international submarine cables in the country in recent years has revolutionised the market which up to that point entirely depended on expensive satellite connections. In parallel, the government is working on the later phases of a national fibre backbone network aimed at connecting population centres around the country.
The government has become more determined to manage the telecom sector more effectively. It has cracked down on counterfeit smartphones, which were thought to account for up to 30% of devices in circulation at the start of the campaign, while in early 2016 the telecom regulator's board was dismissed after it had failed to update the Telecommunications Traffic Monitoring System (TTMS). This system was expected to deliver up to TZS400 billion to the government annually. In late 2016 a new tax collection system was launched to help generate revenue from telecom services.
The government in September 2017 completed a long-term process to reacquire the incumbent, buying out the 35% stake owned by Bharti Airtel. The company was reformed as the TTC in January 2018 with a mandate to develop telecom services and manage infrastructure.