Infrastructure sharing takes centre stage
Tonderai Rutsito TechSpot
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe recently held a consultative workshop with all the country`s communications operators and internet Service providers, where they advocated for sharing of infrastructure, both active and passive in the hope that this will ultimately lead to a reduction in operational costs. Potraz’s acting
director general, Mr Baxton Sirewu, said that as a regulator, they strongly believe in all the operators sharing their infrastructure.
“This move will see a decrease in costs. If all the operators had been sharing infrastructure previously we would have saved the nation of millions of dollars that were invested in individual projects and duplicating of services,” he said.
He said that their aim is to ensure that both passive and active infrastructure is shared proportionally and that those players who have invested in the infrastructure are paid for use of their infrastructure.
Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, technical director Mr Kezito Makuni said it would be unfair and impractical to make it mandatory for them to share their infrastructure for free.
He, however, admitted that they were already sharing some of their infrastructure with direct competitors at different points and were ready to do more.
“We are not strangers to sharing infrastructure, we have already shared previously even with our competitors, but the parameters will have to be clearly defined for all players before sharing is made mandatory across platforms,” he said.
The same sentiments were echoed by Liquid Telecom managing director Mr Wellington Makamure who said that sharing their infrastructure with other players at a cost stimulates investment for the economic development lest other players relax because they would be riding on existing infrastructure
“We have invested heavily in fibre optic cables and when we share the platform with any player, we should have the powers to disconnect defaulting clients on our platform and this sharing should also be extended to local authorities and other stakeholders,” he added.
Though in principle, Econet and Liquid telecom seemed to agree to sharing infrastructure, there was concern that it will be almost impossible to come out with a statutory Instrument that allows for equal sharing of infrastructure where one operator has single handedly invested millions.
TelOne, with their copper cabling, both underground and overhead, is already sharing this infrastructure with many internet service providers.
NetOne was identified as the only player which is not sharing with anyone. It was suggested that the sharing of infrastructure would work especially well in new areas where network providers can collaborate to put up new infrastructure.
There was, however, concern about the nature of benefits that will accrue to an operator who already has a serious coverage advantage over other.
In response Potraz suggested a much more global approach where they said players should not compete on infrastructure but on service provision and value added service, which is actually the trend worldwide.
Econet Wireless, however, argued that service-based competition does not increase coverage or promote innovation.
“Reduction in the cost of services would still be unlikely, this being the main focus of Potraz and the client in calling for the development.
“The competitive field would still be un-level, as there are no new players being introduced for the service provisions. One of the ways to increase competition and, thereby, improve service deliverance and cut down on charges is for Potraz to “issue out” new Internet Service licenses.
“Larger-sized masts/poles will need to be constructed than the present ones in order to sustain the multiple operators load.
“Also, residents near them may suffer pollution in terms of noise and environmental disturbances.” Submitted Econet.
Although the advantages of sharing infrastructure are quiet obvious, the move will need to be approached cautiously as this also threatens network stability for fibre operators who are being asked to run on the same optic lines.
Infrastructure sharing also works against redundancy, the art of creating a backup route in case one fails, there has to be at least two ways for one to reach point A from B directly or via point C or D.
This always happens in networking where some channels are accidentally cut through creating a signal blackout to the users.
Liquid Telecom recently suffered a dual cut off of their backup channels as they ported in Polokwane, forcing them and their ISPs to be momentarily disconnected.
It would have been a national disaster only if the whole nation was running on Liquid Telecom that day, the same can be said of any operator where network stability and availability cannot be guaranteed.
It would be improper to advocate for one player to run our main fibre optic backbone whether locally or as last mile as the risk is too huge in case of any physical damage to the medium that is being used as the main channel.
The writer is the editor for TechnoMag Zimbabwe`s Premier technology Magazine more in depth on www.technom.ag/b9Z follow us on twitter @TechnoMagzw, www.facebook.com/technomagzw, mail [email protected]