National Assembly adopts new Telecommunications Act; cellcos handed LTE licences

14 May 2018

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) National Assembly has adopted a new Telecommunications Act to update the nation’s aging legal framework for the sector, bring the rules in line with the country’s needs and to align with other relevant legislation. The Act now requires Senate approval before entering force. In a statement, the government explained that the Telecommunications Act features ‘more than ten major innovations,’ including an overhaul of the licensing regime, the withdrawal of the state from the commercial sector and the revision of technological/legal definitions with a view to adapting the rules to reflect the convergence of networks and services. Also covered by the legal overhaul are general principles on interconnection, sharing of infrastructure and the management of scarce resources such as spectrum and numbering. Competition has also been put under the spotlight, with the Act implementing specific obligations for operators deemed to have significant market power (SMP), whilst the jurisdictions of the ICT Minister and the regulatory authority have been clarified.

In a related development, the government awarded 4G licences to each of the nation’s cellcos last week, though only Vodacom and Orange have confirmed the allocation. For its part, Vodacom has announced the ‘official’ launch of LTE services, with a notice on its website inviting customers to obtain a 4G SIM card from its retail outlets, although further information is initially scarce. Similarly, details regarding the licence award – including price, frequencies, rollout obligations and other terms – have not yet been made available to the public.