Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, the country’s largest mobile network operator (MNO) has said that it is owed over US$25 million in interconnection fees by NetOne and TelOne, two State-owned telecoms operators.
In an article in the Sunday Mail citing Econet’s response to statements made in parliament last week by the Minister of ICT Supa Mandiwanzira, Econet stated that it is currently owed more than US$25 million by TelOne and NetOne even after the 2 operators’ previous debt of US$60 million in interconnection fees was assumed by government in a licence payment deal.
Interconnection fees are monies that each telecoms operator charges other operators for connecting to its network. License regulations stipulate that each operator settle this debt with other operators. In 2012 and 2013 they were the subject of Econet’s dispute with NetOne and Telecel respectively.
Econet eventually offset its licence requirements against the unpaid interconnection fees it was owed by NetOne and TelOne, an arrangement which Mandiwanzira highlighted as a representation of how Econet hadn’t really paid its licence in full. the Minister argued that in effect, Econet’s licence was paid by citizens of Zimbabwe since the debt was assumed by their government.
The failure by other operators to pay fees due has consistently been cited by Econet as an example of the unfair playing field in Zimbabwean telecoms. Econet has stated that it has paid its interconnection fees to the other operators.