KAMPALA – Uganda Communications Commission, UCC shut down several illegal communications installations, including outdoor megaphone community radios commonly known as bizindaalo, FM radio broadcasting stations, illegal telecommunications installations and apparatus and FM and telecommunications repeater stations during a countrywide operation that started on 2nd May, 2023.
This enforcement exercise was occasioned by the increasing number of illegal communications operators and installations in Uganda that affect the access and quality of service of licensed operators and also causing public discomfort through noise pollution.
UCC executed this enforcement exercised against illegal operators in collaboration with the Uganda Police Force and local/community leadership and authorities. The operation sought to confiscate the said illegal communications equipment in accordance with the Commission’s mandate in Section 6 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013. Sections 26 and 27 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013 prohibit the installation or operation of a television station, radio station, or any related broadcasting apparatus without a license issued by UCC; which has also repeatedly cautioned illegal operators to desist from the vice.
UCC noted with concern that the unauthorized use and installation of illegal communications apparatus and devices led to the interference of access to licensed communications platforms and the general deterioration of quality of service and experience by communications consumers nationwide. In a public notice published in 2022, UCC informed the public that it had received numerous complaints from national telecommunications operators about interference caused by the unauthorized use of illegal communications apparatus. Such illegal apparatus includes but is not limited to the use of repeater stations that are aimed at boosting the mobile network signals but at the same time compromising the quality of service to some consumers in the area since the same is not in compliance with the set technical parameters provided by licensed telecommunications operators.
The enforcement activities against illegal repeater apparatus were done in many down-town Kampala storied buildings where access to communication has been compromised.
The use of a signal booster without authorization by the Commission or knowledge of a licensed service provider is an unlawful practice that has adverse effects on the general quality of service for people in the affected area(s). Several offenders are facing prosecution in the courts of law.
The UCC enforcement team also disconnected more than thirty (30) illegal and non-compliant radio stations countrywide and outdoor megaphone broadcasters (bizindaalo) operating outside the regulatory framework. The crackdown started in Kampala and Wakiso before spreading to all regions of Uganda.
The High Court of Uganda at Kampala on 27th April 2023 granted UCC permission to decommission all illegally installed and operated communication equipment that has been seized from known and unknown operators. The decision by His Lordship Justice Musa Ssekaana arose from an application lodged by UCC for an order authorizing the destruction of the seized communication equipment. UCC argued that between 2017-2022, its officers confiscated several illegally possessed, installed, connected, or operated apparatus whose owners have neither appealed against the confiscation nor come forward to claim them.
In his ruling, Justice Ssekaana agreed with the Commission that since the Uganda Communications Act 2013 provided for the confiscation of such illegal equipment, it would be implied that they were to be destroyed to deter further breaking of the law.