Making electronic communication services accessible to all and at affordable costs is a priority for the Cameroonian government. In line with this ambition, the Minister of Telecommunications, Libom Li Likeng (pictured), sent letters yesterday to the heads of MTN, Orange, Camtel, and the regulator ART, calling for an urgent meeting for tomorrow.
Discussions will focus on measures to improve the quality of services and protect users, we learned. The meeting comes at a time when the population has in recent days been expressing its dissatisfaction with mobile operators via a social media campaign called “mode avion” (offline mode). Many public figures have granted their support including musicians Kareyce Fotso and Charlotte Dipanda, TV series director Ebenezer Kepombia, well-known lawyer Claude Assira, ICT expert Rebecca Enonchong, and politicians such as Cabral Liibi. Offline mode is a way to pressure operators to improve their services, which users consider "mediocre and unnecessarily expensive". As a reminder, such a campaign was recently carried out in Côte d'Ivoire, where mobile operators had to reverse a price increment decision, although initially agreed on by the State.
The impact of the offline mode campaign is still difficult to measure but it will surely be discussed during the government meeting with operators.
The quality of the services offered by mobile operators has deteriorated further in Cameroon for several months. In February 2023, the regulator announced it will now assess the performance of mobile networks in the country. "The results of these checks should lead to sanctions provided for by the regulations in force, namely: financial penalties, reduction of concession duration or withdrawal of concession,” ART said in a Feb.13 statement.
The regulator said it has issued 13 formal notices with a deadline for the implementation of corrective measures, to Orange, MTN, Viettel (Nexttel), and Camtel, following performance checks carried out in H2 2022.
In July 2019, Orange, MTN, and Nexttel were fined a total of CFA3.5 billion, following the failure to comply with specifications. To satisfy their users, MTN, Orange, and Camtel committed in December 2022 to make cumulative investments of CFA156 billion to upgrade their services this year.
However, the participation of all actors is needed to “get the sector on fleek” the CEO of Orange Cameroon said during a consultation meeting with ART officials on January 31 in Yaoundé.
"There are points on which Orange Cameroon must work collectively with other operators. Sometimes, especially on issues of fiber optic transmission, we depend on other operators. Hence the need to work together to improve quality," said Patrick Benon.