By Fatoumata K. Jallow
The Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), yesterday, 19 October, 2016, launched the much anticipated services named ‘Quality of Service’ (QOS) monitoring system at its headquarters on Kairaba Avenue.
The convergence brought together stakeholders from the GSM companies, consumer groups, representatives of the donors among a host of others. Some of the key benefits of the services include reduced costs of telecommunications services, development of more efficient technologies and services, and opening up of new ways for people to obtain Internet access. According to the authorities, this servers will be deployed at the various GSM’s stations and connect it to the control and command centre at PURA, to generate the data on weekly, monthly and yearly basis in order to avoid what happened at the past where everything was done manually.
Mr. Amadou Sanneh, Director General of PURA, acknowledges the Quality of Service Monitoring Network procured by the Authority through the support of the World Bank WARCIP Gambia project under the Ministry of information (MOICI).
He said PURA is mandated by Section 83 of The IC Act 2009, to ensure that all licensed Telecommunication Service Providers offer acceptable quality of service to their customers. Sanneh noted that this has been a challenge in the past but quickly added that with the Quality of Service Monitoring Network, the Authority will be able to monitor the QoS effectively. DG Sanneh further said that the Quality of Service monitoring system can generate Base Station Controller (BSC)KPI’s, from statistics generated by Operation and Maintenance raw data counters extracted directly from operators networks, thus improving the quality of service.
However, he added that the authority has seen significant growth in the telecommunication industry in The Gambia which has had an impact on the quality of service. The industry’s growth had been mostly in the voice segment, but in the past few years the demand for data has grown around the world and in The Gambia. He added that the demand for data is driven by the availability of new online services such as VOIP, and the growth of social media applications like Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube etc.. Device availability as well as infrastructure provision especially by mobile operators has also played a great role, Sanneh said. ‘‘In this regard, the Authority has revised its existing Quality of Service framework through consultations with the operators and the key stakeholders; and procured a state of the art Quality of Service network to enable both the monitoring and growth of these new converged services, and still maintain an optimal level of Quality of service delivery, the Authority can now independently measure and monitor the quality of services provided by the mobile operators. Furthermore it shall publish quality of services reports so that consumers can as a matter of transparency know the service levels being provided in order to make an informed choice,’’ he explains.
He stressed that this monitoring system is one of the key regulatory instruments that PURA shall use to help improve the quality of service delivery in the ICT sector in the Gambia.
In his opening statement, the minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, speaking on behalf of the minister of Information said ‘‘IC has transformed our lives in the last one decade. Ten, twenty years ago no one would have envisioned the level of advancement we are witnessing in communication across the globe and The Gambia in particular’’. He said social media has redefined the way they do business and interact with each other.
‘‘Most successful businesses have recognise that the customer is king, whether in the transport, energy, financial or other sectors, including the ICT sector. It is for this reason that providers of telecommunication services must strive to deliver high quality products/services to consumers in the sector,’’ he said.
Minister Kolley further argue that the demand for high quality services by consumers has not only placed substantial pressure on operators but this pressure has precipitated to the manufacturers of the telecommunications network as well as terminal equipment, which must be capable of providing acceptable quality. “Customers on the other, hand are oblivious of this quality of service challenges but expect their demands to be met at reasonable, if not low, cost to them,” he said.
“The Authority has taken note of this challenge and shall: Set certain minimum standards which are expected from a service provider to ensure that acceptable standards are maintained even in the event of market failures,” he said. These standards, commonly known as Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) he said will amongst others address areas like voice, data and more recently multimedia, endeavour to inform consumers of their rights with regard to quality of service through publication of quality of service reports, protect the rights of consumers with regard to the quality of service.
He finally informed that the recent landing of the Africa Cable to Europe (ACE) submarine cables in The Gambia has now brought about some growth in Internet Access penetration, which is expected to improve in due course. He said these are but a small sampling of the work of the Authority and they will continue to face these challenges and develop themselves to be effective, efficient, transparent, and objective in their duties and functions. Other speakers includes Mr. William Shola Joiner, the project coordinator of WARCIP who also noted the significance of the project and reveals that the total budget is 35 million dollars, in which WARCIP will finance 25 million dollars of that amount and PURA will complete the rest. He expresses optimism that this QOS if implemented will serve the purpose.