In business, sharing isn’t just about caring. There have to be fair benefits for everyone contributing to a communal pot. That’s the long and short version of what Econet has really been saying about Infrastructure Sharing.
The Minister of ICT, Supa Mandiwanzira, had strong words for Econet and it turns out the match that started this whole fire was the statement released by the mobile network yesterday.
So what exactly was Econet on about? What did the mobile network operator do or say that earned them an extortionist tag in the Minister’s books?
In one loaded statement, Econet has questioned the Universal Service Fund, remarked on other operators’ commitment to operators’ licences and fiscal responsibility and sent a message to the government that Econet plays a very big role in Zimbabwean communications.
You can read the statement sent out by Econet below.
With the arguments being laid out by Econet, do you think it is justified to speak out against the infrastructure sharing arrangement the Government is proposing?
THE PRESS STATEMENT FROM ECONET WIRELESS REGARDING INFRASTRUCTURE SHARING
Econet Wireless has noted the ongoing public debate over infrastructure sharing in the
telecommunications industry. Our view is that the current debate does not relate to infrastructure sharing as we understand it. Our understanding of infrastructure sharing entails parties who have invested in infrastructure in different geographic areas entering into arrangements to share their respective infrastructure on an equitable and reciprocal basis to avoid infrastructure duplication.
This is the approach to infrastructure sharing that we support and continue to take part in.
In our view, it is unfair to compel sharing of infrastructure where one party does not have the
infrastructure that the other needs. 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.
Econet is the youngest mobile operator, having entered the market when others already had a head start. We had to raise funding through various channels, including the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, to develop our own network to the level where we now hold approximately 80% of the telecommunications infrastructure in the market.
Econet is an indigenous company with a large shareholder base that includes most pensioners through the National Social Security Authority, Old Mutual and many other pension funds. Our share register has thousands of shareholders who all made painful sacrifices to invest in this infrastructure.
The tone that the current debate on infrastructure sharing has taken appears aimed at compelling Econet Wireless to make its infrastructure available for the use of others who chose other investment priorities. We would be betraying the Government of Zimbabwe and thousands of pensioners and other shareholders who chose to forgo dividends in order for us to develop our infrastructure. Therefore, the type of infrastructure sharing under debate is not feasible. It is a disguised, unconstitutional form of compulsory acquisition of our infrastructure.
We are confident that the Government will see through this ploy as they have already spoken out about the uneven playing field where only Econet has paid a license fee of $137.5 million and our competitors have not. We also doubt that they make compulsory contributions to the Universal Services Fund set up in terms of the Telecommunications Act. We doubt that they pay the full tax. We doubt that they pay the annual license fees. However, we are confident that the Government will now look into all these issues and even the playing field.