27 March 2016

Zimbabwe: Govt Moves On Telecoms Infrastructure Sharing

GOVERNMENT is in the process of establishing a framework for infrastructure sharing which will compel both public and private companies in telecommunications to share infrastructure.

The framework is currently awaiting approval at the Attorney General's office.

The framework is a constructive input between the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) and the telecommunication companies TelOne, NetOne, Econet and Telecel among others, which will regulate the industry.

Information, Communication Technology and Courier Services minister Supa Mandiwanzira said the framework required players in the ICT industry to partner and share infrastructure technology in order to lower their increasing investments.

He said this concept had been tried and tested elsewhere, including in developed markets and was working.

"We have sat down as an industry and made an agreement on a framework to share this infrastructure under Potraz. The industry led by Potraz has come up with an infrastructure framework which has been made to regulate the telecommunication sector on infrastructure sharing. The framework is now before the Attorney General's office for consideration if it is constitutional and does not violate any laws," he said.

Mandiwanzira said in the outlook, there would be no "individualism and as soon as the framework is out everyone must comply".

Potraz, he said, would only give a go-ahead on projects which had infrastructure sharing and not individualism.

"The entire mobile communications sector in Zimbabwe has been lagging behind in terms of infrastructure sharing and there has been a culture of selfishness, largely driven by small minds," he said.

He also said Zimbabweans were being overcharged for telecommunication services.

"We have seen deployment of network fibre cables which can be shared and passing the cost to the consumer and we think this should be addressed," he said.

"TelOne has a lot of infrastructure around the country which are being used by Telecel, NetOne and Econet and that's infrastructure sharing."

He said Zesa infrastructure was being used by Liquid Telecoms to deploy its fibre cables and Zimpost's infrastructure was being used by Econet, Telecel and NetOne.

"There is talk that we want to grab infrastructure from the companies but clearly that company is using Zimpost and TelOne infrastructure and if we are to disconnect it will have big implications on their business," Mandiwanzira said.

Last year, Mandiwanzira gave Econet Wireless a week to remove its telecoms equipment from state infrastructure after the country's largest mobile operator had described government's directive compelling players in the industry to share infrastructure as tantamount to compulsory acquisition of its infrastructure.

"In our view, it is unfair to compel sharing of infrastructure where one party does not have the infrastructure that the other needs" Econet said at the time.

"That is tantamount to compulsory acquisition of infrastructure from one operator who has chosen to invest in infrastructure, for the benefit of another that chose to invest in other assets that are either not available for sharing, or that we do not need."

According to the Potraz's 2015 fourth quarter report, all the mobile operators, except Telecel, increased their base stations.

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