Rura suspends Internet service provider on commuter buses

Saturday November 19 2016

The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority has suspended the services of Telecom Network Solution Providers Ltd, the retailer licensed to provide free Internet connectivity on city commuter buses, over poor service delivery. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority, has suspended the services of Telecom Network Solution Providers Ltd (TNSP), the retailer earlier licensed to provide free Internet connectivity on city commuter buses over poor service delivery.

Launched in February as part of the Smart Kigali initiative, the wireless Internet on public transport was hailed as a step towards modernisation of the lifestyle of the city dwellers and visitors through full access to super-fast 4G while on board.

Connectivity is provided by Korea Telecom Rwanda Networks (KTRN), a 4G Internet infrastructure owner and wholesaler through TNSP. However, passengers as well as a section of the transport operators said the service only worked effectively during the first few days, after which the quality progressively declined. This led to public anger as passengers continued to pay a statutory fee for the service as part of their fares.

According to Rura, there have been issues in the service provision chain with frequent technical and other issues reported without action or follow up by the retailer.

These include not replacing wireless devices after they failed as well as not providing customer care, among others.

Rura director general Major Patrick Nyirishema confirmed to Rwanda Today that TNSP’s services had been suspended.


“We have now decided that KTRN works directly with bus operators for four months to stabilise the service. In the meantime, we’ll be monitoring and we shall make a final decision,” said Maj Nyirishema.

Statutory fee in fares

Passengers were being charged between Rwf30 and Rwf40 per trip, on top of the Rwf200 fare for most routes in Kigali. The fee is charged regardless of whether the passenger has an phone capable of connecting to the Internet or not, and whether or not the particular vehicle is offering the service.

A survey by Rwanda Today indicated that most buses stopped providing wireless Internet to passengers but continued to charge the fee for the service. This was the case with Kigali Bus Services (KBS), Royal Express and Rwanda Federation of Transport Co-operative.

In the Kacyiru-Town Zone for instance, only five out of over 25 buses on the route were found still connected to the network, and a similar situation applies across other routes.

Operators who talked to Rwanda Today pinned the blame on the Internet provider whose service provision got marred by delays and later stopped.

But although those who talked to Rwanda Today said they kept charging passengers for the service, they hadn’t yet credited the money to the accounts of the service provider.

“It’s been two months since we stopped paying for Internet to our suppliers. We only heard that they are changing the account,” said Jean De Dieu Nkurikiyimfura, a bus driver. Every bus credits Rwf150,000 monthly equivalent, or about Rwf4,500 a day in Internet charges.

Col. Dodo Twahirwa, the chairman of Rwanda Federation of Transport Co-operative, said the federation has been told to hold back the money they used to remit as the service provider engages new collectors. Attempts to get a comment from TNSP were futile.

Meanwhile, KTRN corporate relations officer Antoine Sebera said a new retailer would soon take over provision of the service.

Mr Sebera however said KTRN was not aware of instances of buses that aren’t connected to the wireless.

“I would check with our technicians on the ground, but we are providing the services by ourselves and don’t know of any case,” he said.

Initially, more than 480 buses in Kigali were connected to the 4G Internet.