Infrastructure Sharing debate: What should we take from the State vs Econet standoff?

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Over the last couple of months, particularly the last couple of days there has been a lot of hell and dust raised in the telecoms infrastructure sharing debate culminating with some startling threats this week from a government minister.

Government’s unusual ultimatum for a local telecoms operator(Econet) to dismantle entire shared base stations and fiber optic cables in time for Easter if they don’t choose to quietly fall in line with government’s wishes, is tantamount to derailing the entire debate and a poor attempt by the authorities to form consensus where logical and open debate is necessary. Whether the targeted company in this case is the villain in your books or not is beside the point.

Despite present appearances in Zimbabwe, infrastructure sharing is nothing new or unusual, in fact, it is emerging as the norm in many places. However, it is not uniform in execution.

In different parts of the world, infrastructure sharing has been rolled out and regulated differently.Sharing the ground on which different towers are built, sharing a single tower or power generator (passive infrastructure), or sharing the electronic equipment and spectrum itself (active infrastructure) are all different incarnations of infrastructure sharing.

While some governments influence infrastructure sharing others demand it. In all successful cases where infrastructure sharing has worked, authorities are known to rely on public support, government policy and economic incentive with a touch of regulation and law to skew economic activity towards the desired outcome.

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Many governments have successfully crafted regulations and incentives that have seen operators willfully transfer their infrastructure to independent tower companies in billion-dollar commercial transactions that have created jobs and new opportunities. It requires a lot of competence, intellect, foresight and tact on the part of government.

In our case our government is taking a uniquely destructive yet all too familiar approach. They are demanding an immediate outcome, making pronouncements and issuing ultimatums and deadlines before they craft a coherent and acceptable policy.

This, as usual, creates panic and confusion in the entire ecosystem while keeping both foreign and local players at bay and the public in prayer. Perhaps it is about time our government privately engages local think tanks and international experts, hires experienced talent from around the world to staff stream-lined and independent regulatory bodies that come out with sound policies, not bizarre tactics and public threats to dismantle the internet on a whim.

Isn’t it time we have regular public popularity polls that measure public sentiment and support in relation to government actions on important issues?

12 Comments

  1. macd chip says:

    Our minister does not have a clue of what it takes to build a Telco infrastructure. He is minister in that position not by professional qualification, that should explain his tantrums!

    Supa anofanira kuziva kuti kutaura hakusi kuita. Zvingani zvatakaudzwa neveNetone payaitsvaga chikwereti kuChina, vapihwa $200 miriyoni yacho vakaiteyi nayo.

    Vari kuvaka mazimba kuma brook, pedzezvo voda miracle network

  2. Fany says:

    i support Econet on this one. they have spend millions building the infrastructure foregoing other investments whilst other companies chose to ignore the cause and spend their money in many other investments. sharing must be beneficial to both parties and not disadvantage on the other. vaSupa izvi zvasiyana nekutora minda.

  3. lovemore chitinha says:

    Mr Mandiwanzira needs to learn the curves of managing essential stakeholders in an economy otherwise he may be another catalyst of destruction like our late cde “Hunzwi”. When representing the Gvt interest you should influence policy direction in the most fairest way otherwise you create unfair advantages to other players in the industry.

  4. Anonymous says:

    A minister behaving like a mafia, this represent everything that is wrong about the whole regime. A regime that believes that you can just use intimidation to acquire asserts!

  5. Anonymous says:

    The benefit to be obtained by the network operator is financial. They charge lease fees to whoever wants to use their infrastructure.

  6. bat says:

    I feel sorry for econet.

  7. Magneto says:

    As Zimbabweans we are very learned but sometimes we go about issues in a very layman & mickey mouse way.

    Infrastructure sharing demands cooperation among competitors and explicit involvement by regulatory authorities to enforce implementation.

    The liberalization of a country’s telecom industry can enable economic growth across various sectors, but its success depends on regulatory policies that are conducive to the development of competition. One element of such a policy would be the creation of regulatory and economic incentives that encourage the sharing of infrastructure among telecom companies as a key lever to foster competition and optimize
    investments. Operators may perceive the economic benefits and adopt a collaborative approach autonomously; however, a clear policy, a commercially friendly price-regulation mechanism, and tailored regulatory safeguards may be necessary to successful infrastructure sharing. Infrastructure sharing demands cooperation among competitors and explicit involvement by regulatory authorities to enforce implementation.

    1. Conquistador says:

      ….and thank you for basically bringing nothing new to this discussion

  8. Magneto says:

    There are also many models Zimbabwe MNOs and Fixed Network Operators can adopt in-terms of Infrastructure sharing. Namely – Basic Site Sharing, Network Sharing, Spectrum Sharing, MVNOs, National Roaming and establishing Tower Companies. The models range from loosley tied (Sharing passive network components e.g. Towers, Shelters, ZESA etc..) to more heavily involved models (sharing active network components such as Base Stations and Microwave Radios etc…)

    Whatever model one chooses the benefits of sharing world-over are too glaring for any Telco to ignore. Lets take here in Zimbabwe – establishing just 1 Base Station(Tower) site can cost as much as $400 000. Now if Telecel and Econet for example need to deploy say 1000 Base Stations in the next 3 years and they decide to share it means they will each save $200million over the 3-yrs which they can put towards innovation and Product Development and Executive posh cars!!!! Not to mention the Economies of Scale and other multiplier effects down the line.

    Econet need to forgive and forget for the sake of our industry moving forward.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Magneto passive sharing is fine but not active sharing Econet need a fair deal actually they are not refusing they are saying how do they get what they invested back is it through lease agreements with other operators (they have with some Telecel), will a tower company or government buy their passive infrustruce? So it is to wait for the solution in the end really it is Potraz is fault for not having a madate or regulation on it in the first place Econet are an MVNO in UK an South Africa so they do know about infrastructure sharing

      1. Magneto says:

        I am with you there. There needs to be closer engagement between Gvt and the MNOs (and also the fixed operators) to come up with the best model for Zimbabwe. We need to start somewhere. National Roaming is another low hanging fruit for Zimbabwe. Because surely we cannot wait for Telecel or Netone to also get to the number of base stations that Econet has for us to start talking of Infrastructure sharing! That will be tantamount to Econet holding the citizens of Zimbabwe at ransom. We should never forget that the platform (spectrum, wayleaves etc..) upon which these operators make money ultimately belongs to the people of Zimbabwe, they are natural resources.

  9. Huni Jnr says:

    frankly this nation is in disarray. everyone has been digging willy nilly with no real oversight. And we all know what a lame duck Potraz is. However the rights of the individual, of the of the privately owned entities must be respected. gvt should offer a lucrative deal and not make demands. We do not have an appropriation policy for private property. or since we are sharing…i can get your benz nhai supa? toita ka kuti iwe monday ini tuesday, asi ndiwe wakaitenga and ndiwe unoi endesa ku service nekudira petrol.

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