Minister of ICT accuses Econet of extortion, gives MNO an ultimatum

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It seems that playground dynamics are also relevant in the world business. If you force any group of people to share, whoever makes the biggest contribution is bound to complain. So yes, we expected this to happen eventually. Yesterday, Econet Wireless issued a statement that took shots at the proposed infrastructure sharing arrangement that the Government has, of late, been aggressively pushing as the main agenda in IT.

Econet spoke out against a compulsory utilisation of its infrastructure by other service providers that haven’t made efforts to invest in their own networks in a way that Econet will be able to benefit. Part of the statement reads;

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.

In Econet’s opinion, this isn’t fair and since Econet has made the most extensive investment in network infrastructure, this will translate to unbalanced benefits for other operators that have decided to use their capital for other things.

In a response to Econet’s statement, the Minister of ICT, Supa Mandiwanzira, has accused Econet of pretending to oppose infrastructure sharing when it actually benefits from resources it shares with operators like TelOne and ZETDC.

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in an article in The Newsday, Supa Mandiwanzira is quoted as having challenged Econet to remove its installations on TelOne infrastructure. Similarly, Liquid, Econet’s sister company, has been challenged to remove its fibre optic cable on ZETDC pylons by Friday this week.

According to Mandiwanzira, If Econet complies within this time frame, the Government will take Econet’s position to reject infrastructure-sharing seriously. While sharing his concerns about overpriced telecoms services, the Minister also accused Econet of extorting consumers.

As a ministry, we are very concerned that data charges being levied on Zimbabwean subscribers, by most networks, especially Econet, are unjustifiable except when you are resisting infrastructure-sharing.

No mobile network, no matter how big or arrogant, should be allowed to grandstand in the media by pretending to be the protector of consumers when it is in fact extorting the consumers by its totally overpriced products.

This “sharing is caring” approach is hardly new. It’s what has been adopted globally in several markets. Locally the sharing discussion has been at the centre of talks on lower voice and data tariffs. POTRAZ has been handling dialogue between the operators and the State over this matter for years now. 

The issue, however, took a more progressive turn last year when a new pricing model was proposed, together with lowered tariffs for voice communication that were put into effect at the begin of this year.

While we wait to see how Econet responds to this “dare”, what are your thought on this issue and government’s position? Is Econet justified to complain about this forced sharing arrangement? Should the Government adjust the proposal to accommodate Econet’s concerns?



38 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is Zimbabwe. People back those who screw them and overcharge them. Just you wait and see all the posts that will defend ECONET and its overcharging. Zimbos are a strange late. The more you screw them, the more they love you and ECONET understands that too well…so they will continue to overcharge HAPPY ZIMBABWE

    1. Clement says:

      I think you are over simplifying thins there a bit. While the idea of Infrastructure is a noble and logical thing to do, it has however come very late. It is the government who are to blame for this mess as they ignored recommendations made years ago on this issue.
      Infrastucture sharing must be negotiated at this point rather than imposed. It is hard not to see this as government going after a company doing well in order to shore up their struggling baby. Econet has a point there considering they are the youngest of the MNOs and stand to lose the most while by their investments will now promote their very challengers. You mention price issues, its strange that you would blame Econet for overcharging us and leave out POTRAZ who are the regulators of the sector. Who is sleeping on the wheel. Government through POTRAZ have the mandate and right to intervene where players are short changing or taking advantage of citizens, they continue to fail at this as in other areas where the have set up regulatory authorities.

      We have long complained to POTRAZ on spanning, cost of data, SIM cards at one point and per minute instead of per second billing and asked for mobile number portability. POTRAZ have acted slowly if at all and we have had the feeling they are unwilling to touch the cash cows, remember ECONET has paid $187 million to the fiscus.

      If anything POTRAZ have been complicit to our being overcharged, spammed and short changed, they are to blame in the first instance and Econet naturally would take advantage!

      Sorry but you have aimed your guns at the wrong target and as Zimbos we are aware of the ineptitude of POTRAZ in regulating this industry and that is the heart of the issue. This move by the ICT ministry has nothing to do with lowering prices but tackling and reducing the hegemony of Econet Wireless by bringing its competitors to competitive levels, in case you haven’t noticed Econet is really the only viable MNO. Telecel has no licence and Netone needs urgent surgery , hence this move.

    2. Clement says:

      I think you are over simplifying things there a bit. While the idea of Infrastructure is a noble and logical thing to do, it has however come very late. It is the government who are to blame for this mess as they ignored recommendations made years ago on this issue.
      Infrastucture sharing must be negotiated at this point rather than imposed. It is hard not to see this as government going after a company doing well in order to shore up their struggling baby. Econet has a point there considering they are the youngest of the MNOs and stand to lose the most while by their investments will now promote their very challengers. You mention price issues, its strange that you would blame Econet for overcharging us and leave out POTRAZ who are the regulators of the sector. Who is sleeping on the wheel. Government through POTRAZ have the mandate and right to intervene where players are short changing or taking advantage of citizens, they continue to fail at this as in other areas where the have set up regulatory authorities.

      We have long complained to POTRAZ on spanning, cost of data, SIM cards at one point and per minute instead of per second billing and asked for mobile number portability. POTRAZ have acted slowly if at all and we have had the feeling they are unwilling to touch the cash cows, remember ECONET has paid $187 million to the fiscus.

      If anything POTRAZ have been complicit to our being overcharged, spammed and short changed, they are to blame in the first instance and Econet naturally would take advantage!

      Sorry but you have aimed your guns at the wrong target and as Zimbos we are aware of the ineptitude of POTRAZ in regulating this industry and that is the heart of the issue. This move by the ICT ministry has nothing to do with lowering prices but tackling and reducing the hegemony of Econet Wireless by bringing its competitors to competitive levels, in case you haven’t noticed Econet is really the only viable MNO. Telecel has no licence and Netone needs urgent surgery , hence this move.

    3. Ripped Off says:

      What overcharging are you talking about??? Isnt it we are all paying 15 cents per minute??? We are happy with what we are paying. Even if we are overcharged, that doest not Give Supa the right to arm twist Econet!!

  2. Mee Too says:

    Screwing is just good man. All Zimbabweans are females..they like being screwed

  3. mad says:

    overpriced???? thot econet and telecel tarries are equal, mind you price s determined by alot of factors eg zesa is expensive in zim, so many taxes in zim.

    after all powertel internet is expensive wani.

    company X inotenga mota not investing in infrastructure

  4. mad says:

    dear minister

    we never complained about over charged, they are options telecel netone customers have freedom to choose kwavada kwakachipa

  5. Anonymous says:

    Liquid was in agreement with ZETDC to rollout overhead fibre using the Zesa pylons. This was arguably a mega deal in all facets. Liquid sponsored vehicles for this project. Our own parastatals were not interested in the partnership but recently Liquid was stopped and one parastatal was brought into the frame……the project not as good as it was when Liquid was on board
    Coming to infrastructure sharing one operator has invested a lot in Zim with about 1500 physical sites with the other operators with 300 – 500 physical sites. Some are deploying monopole towers which have no room for site sharing whilst some are deploying 4 legged towers. Who stands to benefit, who stands to lose with this infrastructure sharing. How much is supposed to be paid by those who will be leasing? There was once a time when Econet and Telecel were ordered to remove their equipment from some base stations within 24Hrs.
    So I guess this is another reckless statement by the Minister. He needs to be aware of repercussions of making such ill informed statements.

    1. Guest says:

      Boss, you should speak less about things you have little knowledge about. Powertel was actually set up years ago to run the fibre on the pylons. It has largely had its cables on these pylons. Back then, Utande tried to have its cables on these pylons as well. So don’t write as if this was a Liquid innovation

  6. ECONET USER says:

    we are ready to start dumping econet for telecel we want to supoort people with intergrity econet is growing to be a bully we are ready to support any campaign against econet just say the word we are here

    1. Optimus Prime says:

      What’s stopping you from buying a Telecel line right now?

    2. Anonymous says:

      what word do you want from who? Just migrate to netone or telecel and see if we care

    3. chinyichacho says:

      what word do you want from who? Just migrate to netone or telecel and see if we care

    4. Tinashe says:

      Dude, you are thick. That all I can say.

    5. Kaiser says:

      OH Yes, a company with integrity, one who does not pay the regulated licence fees. See even this backfired on Government. They extorted that licence for more than one year out of Econet because they need the cash…now it has backfired on their own enterprises.

  7. Anonymous says:

    ECONET , screw us please….we dont need cheaper rates. Please appeal the decision that went against you to reduce rates to 15cents per minute……we want to pay the previous 23cents per minute or higher.

    Why should we pay the 9cents per minute proposed by PORTRAZ. PORTRAZ is corrupt!!!! We want to pay more. You are a Godly company! Charge us more. We pray. Amen.

  8. inini says:

    Why would you force someon eto share their meal with you when you can buy yours? Yes its a good gesture but cant the minister give the 3 MNOs an ultimatum to seat down and agree on certain terms on how they want the 3 players to approach the sharing issue and he(Supa) or potraz chairs that committee coz it doesnt make business sense to the one with more state of the art base station than the other.

    Supa usatonga ne chibhakera

    1. Ripped Off says:

      Supa idofo. He thinks threats will make him the hero in all this, well NO not for us Econet customers. Its business, if you want something from me you pay. NetOne and Telecel were busy on other things whilst Econet improved their infrastructure. If Econet does not want to share, its their business. Kana iwe Supa uri serious why do you get NetOne and Telecel to pay up on licenses first!! And had it been Econet not able to pay all their license fees at one, were you going to be as flexible???
      Besides atleast Econet contributes to the fiscus in a big way, saka iwe Supa, dzungu ita shoma

    2. Evans says:

      The reason why our tariffs are high is because we are not sharing the infrastructure. Everything you are talking about, ZESA, labour, fuel costs etc becomes cheaper if shared. Surely POTRAZ for once is trying to bring the costs down but Econet is saying, no we don’t want to share the costs with our competitors. If they don’t want to share, they should be prepared to reduce the tariffs. Surely I feel that any sharing agreement will include that Econet has a better infrastructure than anyone else!

  9. Anonymous says:

    The minister should concentrate on Telone, Powertel and Netone. These are entities that should share their infrastructure or rather merge the three into one company

    1. Dzunguman says:

      You think these are words from the Minister? The Minister is simply a mouth piece!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Econet…please. Screw us! Charge us 23 cents per minute so that we can truly say ËCONET YAZVIITA ZVAKARE”!!!! Screw us!

  11. Ini says:

    A few days ago diamond companies where being forced to merge into one. Watch this space. Very soon you will regret supporting Cde Minister when he takes over all MNOs and run them dry.

  12. gwaku chitiviri says:

    Dumb minister. Ndanyara kwazvo

  13. Dzunguman says:

    We are being led by a brain paralysed govt . . . instead of promoting investment and bringing whatever they can, even the lawless Chinese . . . unemployment is at over 90% . . . . they are busy killing what is already there! With ZANUPF, anything abnormal is actually normal! Tired! On the other note, why did Econet loan out $30million to this broke govt? That is, if the Source story was correct!

  14. Anonymous says:

    The telecoms sector does not need any ministerial intervention. They should be left to pursue their strategies for now. The ICT ministry is one ministry minister Chinamasa can do without for budgetary purposes. making any one a steward in a self-driven sector is bound to make that person seek relevance by new introductions that are fairly old.

    1. busy signal says:

      Such an unlearned comment from a learned person. Ict doesn’t need a minister like are u for real?

  15. EconetTillDeath says:

    Siyanai neEconet you ZanuPf murderers, thieves & thugs. Ndekupi kwamakaona Econet ichimanikidza vanhu kutenga their SIM cards or kuregister their products. You’re free to join a network of your choice. If consumers are not happy with Econet let them dump it for another network; imwi mapinda papi. Econet is led by business-minded people, not your Powertel, Netone & Telone which are led by politicians.

    1. Ripped Off says:

      Taura hako Econetilldeath, everyone is free to choose a service provider of their own. I would rather pay more for fantastic service than pay less for rubbish service. Supa, enda unogadzirisa TArcon. Infact, from now on ZiFm should share infrasture with other players, maybe dead BC. Handiti wati zvinoita zve sharing

  16. RGM says:

    If you compel Econet to share with you their infrastructure for free who will maintain the infrastructure, who will be giving engineers their salary, who will fuel the generators; whose guards will be watching the base stations.

  17. macd chip says:

    Hapana munhu ari kumanikidzwa kutenga kana kushandisa Econet. Supa anofanira kutanga agadzirisa ngura nezvidemhe zvakazara kuTelone, Netone uye Powertel.

    Iwo mutauro wekungoda kutyisana ndouneiko. Kutyisidzira kuratidza hugwara. Mabusiness haafambiswe nekutyisidzirana.

    Nhaiwe Supa wadii watyisidzira Telone, Netone kana Powertel kana uchizviita une masimba. Hanti kutya kuti unoswera vadzurwa ndebvu nedzimwe ngwerume dziriko.

    Nemazera enyu aya vana Supa tange tofara kuti vechidiki vanomhanyidzana netechnology vave panyanga zvotifambira, bva zvakunenge kupembedza n’anga ichibata mai.

  18. Tinashe says:

    Without having to sound prejudiced, whatever happens I believe Econet will win this. Remember we are dealing with an entity that took the government to court for years and won the legal battle. Supa should pick his fights carefully.

    Look at it this way though, if Econet fails do you suppose our Telecoms industry will survive? Thank God that company is wholly owned by Zimbabweans. If these had been foreigners, what with the whole indigenisation talk, the guys would have decided to pull out and sell the company. From there, some fool-hardy greedy businessman would have bought it and within three years the brand we know would have collapsed. Then what. With the current woes our economy is facing, we would be thrown back to the 90’s. No other operator has the capacity to service the industry the way Econet does, both financially and technically. Most importantly FINANCIALLY. What Mr. Masiyiwa has done has allowed him to gain access to finances some of us can only dream of.

    So what am I saying, Econet should not be forced to share its infrastructure, not only because it invested in building the network it has over but also because it spells doom for the consumer at the end of the day. What the government is trying to do is discourage long term investment by companies. Suppose you decide to start your own fast food delivery company what-so-ever, and you build from the ground up, a sophisticated and well connected delivery network with thousands of pickup points. You do all this sacrificing personal pleasures, yet during the same period your competition is busy squandering capital on anti-business related expenses. Ten years down the line, your own government then shows up and tells you to share your distribution network with the competition based on some fad that it is fair that you fork out 90% of the infrastructure without you actually gaining something. Is that practical and does it make business sense?

  19. [email protected] says:

    most of our comments missed the mark. its premature for Econet and all their misguided sympathizers to argue against this until a pricing model for infrastructure sharing has been presented. it is the one which will show whether anyone is being short changed on their investment. return on investment.

  20. mwanamwana says:

    First Supa took a swipe at Telecel and that was a non event, now he wants to shake down Econet and lets see, that will also be a non event. The honourable minister is looking to get some kind of recognition for being in office and is doing it wrong, in my opinion and we are fools to listen to him ranting and waiving his stick at everyone. Sharing should be a voluntary thing among the interested companies, but Minister you seem to need a job please hire me as an advisor and you will get to have all the glory. There is so much you can do outside of trying to bully another bully, when there is a whole country for the taking. Ok maybe I’m being foolish, rant rant rant rant.

    Digging fiber or putting it on ZETDC pylons is not sharing it is making them the customer , so undigging the fiber will do what? solve a problem. Does diggin fiber in Harare mean Liquid is sharing infrustructure with the city council, i think not. But then again i am a person of a varying opinion so my rant wont matter. Wait new statement from the honourable minister “Harare city council is sharing infrustructure with MNO’s” coz it allows them to lease/buy land to install base stations.

  21. busy signal says:

    I see a lot of “rich people” comments here. Can somebody justify why econet is charging people on the ecosure thing when one hasnt subscribed to it? If u have been to other countries, their networks dont aUtomatically start to chow yo airtime balance like what econet does. Super has a point though wrongly put.

    1. mwanamwana says:

      So what you want to deal with hunger by buying shoes, get it. This not about fair business practice talk to PROTRAZ, the consumer protection guys they should be the one dealing Eco’rape taking our money without request or extortion to use the networks. This is about bullying coz they GVT got left so behind the curve they cannot even catch up. Instead of starting companies like Broadband Infranco in SA to become a player in the Big league they ‘Gov’ want to make the Big league smaller then call it the Big league. Infranco is a parastatal in SA and i don’t remember hearing them crying about sharing and unfare competition because that what business is, to compete to be a better brand than the next. The minister is friends with he Chinese, if not our Gov is, talk to then ask them how they do it, ask for help with the equipment heck get them to build it. Grow Up in short. Stop throwing a tantrum coz some one brought a better toy than yours and now you want that one yours as well.

      And actually busy signal, ask Eco’rape that question not us. Anyway this industry is too polarized you either in bed with the Gov’ or Eco’ there is no real open market anymore and the companies in between leave a lot to be desired. I liked Zim better before David sold his business to Eco’rape sorry Liquid , mealie meal from the same bag. things were really shaping up and Ecoweb was small player with all the hopefuls of Yo Africa, Africom, uMax and the like then Eco’ was allowed to buy ZOL that killed all. Where were all the regulating bodies then? Now you want to talk……..

  22. Pedzy says:

    The reason why Econet is charging high tariffs is so that they will be able to pay their licence and invest in network infrastructure, that’s why they have the best infrastructure and network. We would be surprised if after all these years Econet turned out to have the poorest infrastructure after charging highest tarrifs for years.
    Econet has the highest subscriber base who r willing to part with their hard earned cash, have they complained ? This is business some buy MuMachina shops, some kumabhero, some at Barbours. that’s hw it is and if the minister is to foster the benefits of infrastructure sharing, which are true and valuable he should do so with fairness and intergrity and in form of negotiations not imposition. GORVENMENT POLICY VS INVSTMENT .
    The minister can successfully force econet to share infrastructure, no doubt about that coz they r the gvnment and Econet might not shut down after such a treatment and the gvmnt will they have won but HONESTLY what message have we sent to a potential investor who was considering investing in Zimbabwe, probably in the same telecommunications sector. REMEMBER DIGITAL BROADCASTING IS AROUND THE CORNER ……. I could go on and on but I hope I have made little possible sense. THATS MY OPINION

  23. Sagitarr says:

    Econet should be allowed to commercially charge the other operators (where it is shared). If this model works like Zimswitch, there will be universal benefit. Visa and Mastercard share infrastructure to the point of even offering stand-in processing for each other’s cardholders. What is now clouded is that no single operator has 100% coverage of the country. I work in an industry where we deploy NetOne data lines because EW has poor coverage and vice versa. This has improved our service to our clients. If this model is implemented fairly and voluntarily there might be no need of having two lines or handsets etc Unfortunately this govt has a very poor record of successful project delivery even if the intention is noble. Not much can be expected from entities stuffed with political appointments with very thin academic or professional expertise.

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