Saturday, April 30, 2011, 9:46 Habari kuu, The african BY GEOFFREY NANGAI TANZANIA remains one of the countries in the world with the highest call rates for its cellphone subscribers according to the latest Annual Communications Monitoring Report released yesterday. On the same vein Tanzania remains near the bottom of the heap, along with the other nations that include New Zealand, Lesotho and Azerbaijan in traffic volume per subscriber. Mobile voice traffic per subscriber in New Zealand still remains amongst the lowest in the world with New Zealanders making an average of 79 minutes of voice calls per month compared to 120 in Australia and 198 in the UK. Indeed, the report says, New Zealand is near the bottom of the heap, along with Tanzania, Lesotho and Azerbaijan indicating that all that was thought theyve got cheaper, voice plans are in fact still too expensive, dissuading many people calling on their mobiles as much as those in other developed countries. The new report that covers a broad range of issues, and market trends in the telecommunication sector however noted that off-net pricing remained high in many countries including Tanzania as a result on-net calling while using of the Short Message Service (SMS) has increased drastically in recent years. Telecom companies have of recent offered discounts to reward customers for calling or texting others on the same network but on-net plans are a barrier to new entrants the report cited. The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) Corporate Communications Manager Innocent Mungy in a telephone interview with this paper declined to comment on the report because he had not seen its details but emphasized that the countrys market price is determined by forces of demand and supply. Said he: We do not have the mandate to set call prices for the telecom companies. This can only be determined by the forces of demand and supply. The only role we play is to ensure that telecom companies adhere to the set interconnection rate. As of the report, I cannot say much about it until I read it thoroughly, he stressed. But a top official from one of the countrys leading cellular networks who spoke to The African on the matter on condition of strict anonymity said it was not fair to compare Tanzania with countries whose telecommunication sectors are at advanced stages. The countrys telecommunication sector is still so young as compared to the developed world. Secondly we have different infrastructure set ups. Where as providers in the developed world we play on a levelled ground, we in the developing nations incur additional costs such as setting up the necessary infrastructure. With this kind of working environment, definitely our rates have to be slightly higher, the source said. The telecom companies are already engaged in a price war in a bid to increase their market shares that has seen of recent seen customers enjoy what is said to be affordable communication. The war that was sparked off by Tigo as it lowered its call rates to Sh1 per second on-net, was later taken on by the other three cellular service providers and has seen providers drop rates to a half and a quarter shilling per second across the same networks. Analysts however believe the price war that has recently rocked the sector could in a long run discourage future investments in the country in the once fastest growing industry as well as lead to poor services to subscribers due to network congestion. The Zantel Chief Executive Officer Norman Moyo, in a statement last year said the unfair price war will lead to reduced investment in telecommunications infrastructure, severe quality deterioration due to high network congestion and significant loss in profitability, He cautioned players to be cautious as companies would fill the pinch of the reduced price cuts in the next 18 months.