ECONET Wireless has insisted that it does not agree to compulsory sharing of telecoms infrastructure, despite recent statutory regulations drafted to enforce the requirement.
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) is now looking into submissions by the telecoms giant regarding its opposition to infrastructure sharing.
Potraz director general Dr Gift Machengete said Econet was still not keen on compulsory infrastructure sharing, arguing this would discourage investment into telecoms. Further, he said Econet indicated that when it initially wanted to share infrastructure other operators such as state owned fixed telecoms company, TelOne, resisted.
Dr Machengete said the idea by Government that operators should share infrastructure was noble as it avoided duplications and helped the country to save forex. The POTRAZ boss said the need to share infrastructure was beyond question, adding what needed to be deliberated on was the modalities for sharing it.
“The operators have not started (compulsory sharing of infrastructure). In fact, Econet has submitted representations on why it will not be beneficial to share,” he said.
“They feel that they should just be encouraged to share, they feel there should be room to decide who they want to share with rather than being compelled to share.”
The Herald Business understands that infrastructure sharing was very minimal and entailed basic equipment or passive infrastructure such as base station towers.
According research by POTRAZ into benefits of sharing infrastructure, the authority said it would cut operators’ costs by 15 to 30 percent and reduce capital outlay by up to 60 percent.
The study conducted by POTRAZ last year revealed that capital expenditure accounted for up to 60 percent of costs for telecoms companies operating in Zimbabwe.
“Econet is arguing that other regulations encourage (not compel) sharing, so that is the situation. We received their representations two weeks ago,” Dr Machengete said.
“We are in the process of looking into what they are saying,” he added.
Dr Machengete said Econet had argued that if the operators were compelled to share their infrastructure “they will not be that push to invest in (telecoms) infrastructure”.
Econet Wireless, founded by Zimbabwean telecommunications magnate Strive Masiyiwa, says it has invested over $1,2 billion in its business since inception in 1998. But he pointed out that it was a “sound idea (to share infrastructure). We are a small country; we do not have all the resources, especially the (requisite) foreign currency”.
Dr Machengete said sharing helps to avoid duplication in investing in infrastructure in the industry was critical in achieving efficient utilisation of precious resources.
“Infrastructure needs foreign currency, it does not matter if it is Econet importing infrastructure, at the end of the day, it is Zimbabwe’s foreign currency being used,” he said.
He said other operators such as State owned NetOne and TelOne were keen on infrastructure sharing.
“They have not gone out against infrastructure sharing, but Econet”.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa is on record saying that he was unhappy with the level of infrastructure sharing, as it raised costs to end users of the services. The process to compel infrastructure sharing started in 2014 and entailed consultations with all stakeholders, including operators. The regulations were passed last year.
The Potraz boss said a way forward must be found, which includes making sure that standing regulations on compulsory sharing of infrastructure are adhered to.