Communication is one of the leading fields in Uganda, with a government entity known as Uganda communications commission in charge of supervising and licensing all communication activities ranging from radios, televisions, News papers, Magazines, telephony, Internet and Mail among all other means of communication.
The official language of Uganda is English while Luganda is the most dominant local language because the capital is located in a Luganda speaking area. There are over 54 traditional languages in Uganda including but not limited to Luganda, Lusoga, Lunyankole, Lunyoro, Lutoro, Lugisu and a lot more languages. Most of the radio and television stations use a mixture of English and any other traditional language based on the region they are operating from.
The biggest fraternity in the communication industry is the telephony. A few decades ago, mobile phones were only for the rich; a person had to not only buy airtime to make calls but also pay a monthly service fee of about ugx 10,000 to simply be in position to receive calls. Towards the early 2000s MTN Uganda entered into the telephony market turning the whole industry upside down, it brought in stiff competition to Celtel by then which was the leading telecom company along side Uganda telecom.
As the competition got stiff, MTN emerged on top of the market in the early 2000s, later on, companies such as warid and Orange came unto the scene disrupting the market again, however, due to its limited capital, warid couldn’t sustain the competition for long thus merging with Airtel in 2013 which used to be Celtel in the late 1990s and Orange was taken over by Africell in 2014. In 2013 a new telecom company known as K2 telecom also came unto the scene, it later on failed to fairly compete with Airtel and MTN thus getting into a partnership kind of merger with Airtel. In 2014 a new telecom company known as Smart telecom also came unto the scene facing a far worse fate than K2 telecom.
Today there are mainly three fairly competing telcom companies; MTN, Airtel and Africell. Before Africell came on the scene, voice bundles had become kinda expensive after Warid telecom which was offering the cheapest bundles merged with Airtel. Africell started the “do not be cheated campaign ” and giving out free sim cards which in the long run affected the telephony industry. Voice bundles were reduced by MTN and Airtel to fairly compete with Africell thus fair charges today.
The telephone companies through the evolution of mobile money provide money transfer services, insurance, and Internet services making them a threat to the banking industry. To enjoy all the above services, you only need to acquire for yourself a Sim-card at any of the outlets around the country at around ugx 3000-5000 depending on the telephone network you choose to subscribe to. Registration is free of charge though it requires you to carry your National i.d or Passport.
Today, there are over 30 local television stations though the competition is still mainly among 3 or 4 media houses. That is NBS, NTV and Bukedde; these three brands own more than one television station which gives them an upper ground when negotiating for advertisements.
To watch television in Uganda, you need to buy a decoder that either requires monthly subscription or free to air. Star-times, GOtv, Azam, Zuku, Kwese, Dstv are some of the decoders that require monthly subscription, however you may buy a free to air decoder that is operated by Signet to receive local channels only. These Decoders range from Ugx 65,000 to 250,000.
There are also Internet based television stations, some of which are operating without a license since the laws are not yet clear, though Uganda communications commission is apparently seeking to regulate all Internet users including bloggers and those who use social media
There is still a challenge in content development, and high operational costs which has seen most of the new television stations on the verge of closure. The law requires television stations to air at least 75% local content which is a beat hard for many owners since it calls for investing in content creation while dealing with other operational charges. The main advertisers; that is government entities, telcom companies and NGOs often go to the top 5 stations which are owned by the top 3 brands which also own magazines, News papers and Radio stations. In other instances better content is often sold to the leading stations which leaves the struggling stations with nothing to offer competitively. These struggling stations are being sold from around Ugx 1 billion to Ugx 1.5 billion or more in cases where they own the premises where they operate from.
There are over 300 radio stations in Uganda, unlike the televisions that are strictly digital, most of the registered radios are on Analog, there are also online radios which majority are owned by churches. The analog radio frequencies range from 87.5-107.9.
The radio industry almost faces the same challenges faced by the television industry in Uganda. The main content of radio stations in Uganda is Music, news, current affairs and documentaries.