|Issue:||Latin America 2007|
|Topic:||Impelling the development of telecommunications in Honduras|
|Author:||Abg. Rasel Antonio Tomé|
|Title:||President, National Commission of Telecommunications|
Rasel Antonio TomÈ is President of the National Commission of Telecommunications, CONATEL. Mr TomÈ is a lawyer and public notary. He is also one of the representatives of the Executive authority seeking a consensus regarding the Law of the Telecommunications Sector and working for the fortification of Hondutel. During his career, Mr TomÈ has specialised in penal and procedural law and worked as judge in various cities. Mr Rasel Antonio TomÈ is a founder of the Bufete Estudio JurÌdico de Abogados, and is a member of the Rotario Club of Tegucigalpa. Mr TomÈ is a lawyer and public notary; he graduated from the faculty of law of Universidad Nacional Autonoma of Honduras. He also has a specialization in penitentiary Right and procedural Right.
CONATEL, Hondurasí National Commission of Telecommunications, is dedicated to promoting investment to expand the countryís telecommunications sector, fostering free competition and providing the citizens of Honduras with universal access to telecommunications. Tele-density for both mobile and fixed services has increased dramatically in recent years. CONATEL has driven competition by consolidating sub-operators that compete with HONDUTEL, the main fixed telephony operator, introducing a third mobile operator and licensing a fourth. It also issued regulations to reduce the service tariffs end users pay.
The National Telecommunications Commission in Honduras, CONATEL, defines its strategies to develop the government policies, dictated by the President of the Republic, Don Manuel Zelaya Rosales, for the telecommunications sector in three major axes: the promotion of investment in the telecommunications sector within an environment of free and loyal competition; supervision and protection of the rights of telecommunications service users; and, promoting the universal access of citizens to affordable telecommunications services, especially for those who live in commercially marginal rural and urban regions with little, if any, telecommunications infrastructure and services. For example, we have been working actively to increase competition in the market for fixed telephony by continuing the process of consolidating the companies called sub-operators, which compete with HONDUTEL, the countryís main fixed telephony operator. By strengthening the sub-operatorsí competitive position, they will be better able to offer local fixed telephony services to satisfy the existing repressed demand for communications services. The result of this effort has met our expectations; in just one year we have seen the greatest increase – 2.81 lines per one hundred inhabitants – in fixed telephone density in the history of Honduras. At the end of 2005 the tele-density was 6.94 lines per one hundred inhabitants; by the end of the year 2006, tele-density in Honduras had climbed to 9.75 lines per one hundred inhabitants. This, clearly, was due to the strong competition generated by consolidating the operations of the 23 sub-operating companies in the sector. In the mobile telephony sector, competition has increased between the countryís main mobile telephony operators – Celtel, the operator of Millicom, and SERCOM, the operator of Movable America. In addition, a third mobile telephony operator, HONDUTEL, began operations in 2007. CONATEL is currently in the process of judging a bid, open to international investors, for the licence of the spectrum to offer a Personal Communication Service, PCS, in Honduras. The winner of the bidding will become the fourth mobile telephony service operator in the country. Competition in mobile telephony has increased the number of mobile users in Honduras; mobile telephone density reached 30.61 lines per one hundred inhabitants by the end of year 2006. To protect users, CONATEL created its System to Control the Activation of Lost Mobile Terminals, SICAPT. This is a procedure to report the robbery or loss of any cellular device within the national territory, so that the cellular terminal cannot be re-activated to function on the mobile networks of any supplier who operates within Honduras. This regulation reinforces individual security and is expected to reduce the number of handsets that are stolen. In addition, at the end of year 2006 the telecommunication sector tariff rate norms were adjusted to reduce the Interconnection Access charges to benefit users by L.0.38 per minute (approximately US$0.02). Mobile telephony maximum tariff who also reduced from US$0.25 per minute to US$0.20 and the minimum charges from US$0.18 to US$0.15 per minute. This resulted in a total benefit to the users of L.630, 414.842,00, which comes to L.315 (approximately US$16.45) per user. We are now working to create a customer service office where telecommunications users can comment about the quality of service they are receiving from their operating companies and have their doubts and questions answered. The customer service office will make use of an ICT platform that allows users to communicate and interact directly with CONATEL, the regulatory authority, with regard to all matters relating to the services they receive. It is important to note that CONATEL has been pushing the mobile telephony service concession holders to fulfil their obligations to provide Universal Access in marginal rural and urban regions that currently have very low tele-density ratings. As a result, 1,014 community telephones were installed during 2006 and they are moving forward with the installation of 2,206 fixed community telephones for year 2007 for a total of 3,220 communitarian fixed terminals in approximately 3,000 marginal rural and urban communities by year end 2007. These fixed community terminals play an important role, bringing access to telephony service in these difficult-to-serve areas. These terminals – together with the preferential tariff regime that has been established – facilitate the effective access to telecommunications services in marginal markets. Undoubtedly, there are still many issues to resolve in the sector, including the promotion of access to ICTs, information and communication technologies, especially to the Internet. Honduras currently has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in Central America. This will be resolved, in part, by implementing the new Law of Telecommunications. The Law calls for the creation of a Telecommunications and Information Technologies investment fund, to help the Government of Honduras invest in ICT infrastructure and services in different parts of the country that are not otherwise economically attractive for the telecommunications service providers that are now operating in the country. In order to achieve the aforementioned objectives it has been necessary to strengthen the telecommunications sectorís regulatory authority so it can efficiently and effectively administer the sectorís evolution and development for the benefit of the people of Honduras. For these reasons, CONATEL is dedicated to the development of the Honduran telecommunication sector, by creating a climate to encourage national or foreign investment, in an environment of transparent rules and regulations. States exist to provide a better life for their citizens. To this end, Honduras is fighting to reduce the levels of poverty in the country. The government expects that by providing access to information and communications technology and encouraging its use, it will contribute to the reduction of poverty throughout the country.