Cameroon Telecom Regulators Face Challenges

DOUALA, CAMEROON (08/16/2000) - Editor's Note: Gideon F. For-Mukwai has been in Cameroon for more than two weeks reporting on changes occurring there as a result of telecommunications liberalization and increased use of information technology. This story and "Telecom Liberalization Spurs Growth in Cameroon," "Spectrum Management Tops List of Concerns" and "Computers Boost Cameroon Civil Service Census" offer a snapshot of what is happening in the west African nation.

The Cameroon Telecoms Regulatory Authority (ATR) has reviewed its structure, finances and strategies in an attempt to combat challenges emerging from liberalization of the nation's telecommunications sector.

The ATR met recently to approve a budget and to adopt aggressive policies aimed at implementing free and fair competition within the nascent industry. A renewed effort is under way by regulators to clamp down on illegal operators of VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) services and private television stations around the country. Rapid development is heating up the telecommunications industry in Cameroon and the sub-region, but growth also has led to clandestine and irregular practices on the part of some operators.

The 2-year-old ATR also is said to be facing even more severe problems in arbitration of the mobile telephone market. The organization acknowledged in a document that it is flooded with user complaints of alleged over-billing and exploitative behavior by Societe Camerounaise de Mobile (SCM), one of the two legal mobile providers in Cameroon. ATR further acknowledged that it has intervened in problems regarding telephone interconnections from fixed-to-mobile telephones and problems of connectivity from mobile provider to mobile provider.

Besides SCM, a subsidiary of France Telecom, the ATR also has granted a mobile license to MTN of South Africa. Four more licenses are said to still be in the offering.

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