Minister of ICT accuses mobile operators of externalising forex, makes strong case for unified gateway as solution!

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According to a report published by the Chronicle today, the Minister of ICT, Supa Mandiwanzira, has accused mobile operators of “fleecing” the country of foreign currency through understated international calls.

Addressing Parliament on the issue, the Minister stated that Government did not have the necessary equipment to monitor incoming and outgoing calls creating a technical grey area mobile operators are allegedly taking full advantage of by understating call traffic depriving the Government of much needed foreign currency in the process.

The Minister said:

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“We are equally concerned that there appear to be under-declarations of revenues on the amount of calls coming into this country with the inflation of calls that are leaving the country where we have to pay foreign currency outside”.

More interestingly is the solution the Minister hinted at, a unified gateway. In his statement, the Minister blamed the lack of monitoring ability on mobile operators use of international gateways by saying:

“Because these international gateways are the conduits for traffic outside and into the country, we are only able to determine how much has come through and how much has gone out through their reporting without any particular system by ourselves to audit and make sure that those statistics are transparent”

A unified gateway  would be a single entry and exit point for all voice traffic, well in this instance, which could allow greater monitoring of not only traffic statistics but conversations (something countries like China do very well).

The Minister further attacked mobile operators by accusing them of using off-shore accounts to externalize foreign currency, openly stating that the Ministry is now preparing to take action on MNOs:

“We have also discovered that the same companies are using Mauritius-registered companies which are not themselves owners of any bandwidth to buy bandwidth internationally and resell to related companies in Zimbabwe so that part of the margin is being kept outside.

So, we are working on a number of measures which we are still consulting on. Once we are ready, we are going to take action. This is an opportunity Mr Speaker Sir, to warn the companies that we are watching you and we are coming at you.”

Its interesting that the Minister’s comments come after the passing of SI 137 on Infrastructure Sharing which was passed early November. Talk of a unified gateway is not new though, it is mentioned in the Ministry’s ICT policy:

“The Government has long stated its policy for a single gateway operator. In order to coordinate the proliferation of international gateways and stem revenue losses, there shall be one Super Gateway which shall be the entry and exit point for all international traffic.”

However, there  may have been need for some local context to push it the proposed unified gateway through.

 

4 Comments

  1. easy says:

    Potraz did a Tender of the TTMS last time, which he blocked, lets see who he is going to give the $30 million job to.
    His Chinese friends im sure

  2. Macd Chip says:

    This Minister seems to have the shortest memory of events:

    http://www.techzim.co.zw/2016/08/zimbabwean-regulator-potraz-deploys-qos-software-monitor-telecoms-performance-standards/

    Some might say might its for call quality, but QoS is very broad, once deployed, you can enable anything to be monitored. Its concerning that the minister doesnt know he have the tools already in place, or are they?

    When you start getting into ITU area and want to be master, you will get your fingers burned badly. The case of international call traffic and payment should be left to those who have the capacity to do that.
    If the minister can remind us how long it is taking them to pay Vimpelcom a one off payment, that will be a good start to measure the ministry efficiency to settle international payments.

    The minister also needs to familiarise himself with what is called company cross charging. I know in our government there is no cross charging between ministries because every parastatal is a minister’s fiefdom where they do not settle bills from other government parastatals.

    But targeting Econet because it has companies all over the world is a wrong mentality and move. Just because it is owned by Masiwa does not mean they do not settle their bills internally through cross charging.
    Econet bottling company in Mutare might need internet access, but that doesnt mean it will get it for free from Zol. Zol needs to pay for its engineers, trucks etc, so they will send engineers but cross charge for the service.

    That is the same with Liquid Tel, they have POP(Point Of Presents) at London Internet Exchange, to keep themselves connected, they need to keep paying their bills. I know for a fact that 1Gbps internet access cost £1600, 10Gbps cost £4000 monthly, not sure how many gigs Liquid Tel have. You also pay membership fees to RIPE NCC plus all the cost of engineers.

    To get money for paying their bills, Liquid Tel will have to sell bandwidth to whoever comes. If Zol comes and ask for bandwidth, they will get charged, and payment settled via cross charging. This will make it easy for Masiwa to determine which company is making money and which one is loosing him money and sell.

  3. nmbombera says:

    So the ministry has no means to monitor call traffic? Is that the MNOs problem or its he the parent ministry’s problem?

  4. Clemy says:

    I thot that it was common knowledge that apple makes a killing in terms of profits per device and as such it will dominate the profit column of any smartphone profitability article

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