The Government has gazetted regulations which make it compulsory for mobile telecommunication operators to share infrastructure, a move which could cut costs by as much as 60 percent but which analysts say will only benefit its poorly resourced networks.
The regulations, which were gazetted last Friday as Statutory Instrument 137 of 2016, seek to eliminate ‘unnecessary duplication of telecommunication infrastructure’ by maximising the use of existing and future telecommunication infrastructure.
Telecoms regulator Postal and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has been a strong proponent of the infrastructure sharing policy which it argues will cut the sectors’ capital expenditure by 60 percent and make ICT services affordable.
“In relation to these regulations, the Authority shall exercise licensing and regulatory powers in respect of infrastructure sharing,” reads part of the SI.
“The Authority shall determine categories and sites for telecommunication infrastructure sharing in the public interest as well as to review and monitor sharing arrangements.”
The regulations also empower Potraz to direct telecommunication license holders to share infrastructure in the national interest.
Zimbabwe currently has three licensed mobile network operators – Econet, NetOne and Telecel — and one state-owned fixed telephony service as well as a host of internet service providers which also offer voice platforms.
Econet, the country’s largest telecoms firm has in the past made strong reservations on infrastructure sharing after investing $125 million in network rollout in the full year to February 2015 — bringing its total expenditure on core infrastructure to over $1,2 billion over five years.
The telco said it was not fair to have infrastructure sharing given the huge disparity in the level of investment and also the quality of the equipment.
But government insists that infrastructure sharing will promote transparency and competition.
Its wholly owned NetOne network is struggling due to underinvestment while a recent audit has showed corruption and mismanagement on a large scale.
In April, the Zimbabwe government acquired a controlling 60 percent stake in the Telecel, the smallest mobile operator in the country, from the Amsterdam-headquartered Vimpelcom through ZARNet, its wholly-owned Internet Service Provider (GISP).
Potraz intends to carry out an audit in consultation with telecommunication license holders to determine shareable and unshareable infrastructure.
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