The government is working out a plan that will see it charging WhatsApp calls in efforts to recoup the revenue it has been losing due to falling international trafficking charges.
In principle, telecommunication firms had been earning a lot each year from international call charges.
However, since WhatsApp calls became a household name, the amount that telecommunication firms earn from such calls has drastically plummeted because people have turned to WhatsApp and other similar calls to avoid international call charges.
Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) figures show that the number of international calls has plummeted drastically during the past 10 years.
For instance, TCRA recorded a total of 107.2 million international calls during the entire fourth quarter of the 2012 calendar year.
However, the number dropped to 65 million during the fourth quarter of 2016 before plunging further down to 27.27 million during the last quarter of 2020.
But Information and Communication Technology minister Faustine Ndugulile, told Mwananchi in an interview that the government was looking into ways of preventing loss of its revenues, occasioned by WhatsApp calls.
He said TCRA was currently analysing the Telecommunication Traffic Monitoring System (TTMS), with a view to looking into the best modality to prevent revenue losses.
Commissioned two years ago, the $24.6 million TTMS was aimed at tracing fraudulent traffic. It is used in identifying fraudulent traffic as well as mobile money transactions and data that would have been difficult to access accurately without such a system.
The system also enables TCRA to ascertain the quality of services given by mobile phone operators to their customers, he added.
“So, for now, data shows that inter- national calls traffic has gone down as people have migrated to WhatsApp calls. This has negatively affected rev- enues from international calls. We need to have a regulatory mechanism and this is actually what TCRA is doing at present,” he said.
Explaining on the matter, sectoral issues director at TCRA, Mr Emanuel Manase, said it would be difficult for the telecommunications regulator to bar WhatsApp calls but noted that improvements on its (TCRA’s) regulatory mechanism will focus on recouping government revenue by coming up with new data tariffs.
He said the first step towards that goal was identifying all phones that make and receive calls through WhatsApp and Messenger.
“After doing that, the second step will be to conduct an analysis of data usage whereby we will find out whether or not we should adjust the charges because it will be through that way that the government will collect its revenue despite a drop in international traffic,” he said.
Once that gets done, he said, the government will then decide on the way forward. Dr Ndugulile said the government was also looking at ways by which it can protect the interests of artists whenever their songs were played on various broadcasting stations.
“We are trying to come up with a sys- tem that will ensure that the artist’s royalty is automatically calculated as soon as his/her music gets played. As such, at the month end it will tell you how many times you played songs for any particular artist and how much needs to be paid in royalty,” he said.
In the same vein, he said the minis- try was also looking at coming up with a system that will automatically filter messages that are derogatory, fabricated and ridicule in nature.
“This should be in such a way that the system automatically blocks any message that is derogatory or fabricated before it goes viral,” he said