The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has indefinitely suspended the issue of new Internet Access Provider (IAP) licenses from 01 September 2009. The press statement, released on Monday 21 September 2009 is titled “Declaration on Moratorium for New Telecommunication License” and reads in part:
“The authority has of late received an unprecedented number of applications for Internet Access Provider Class A (IAP ‘A’) licenses. The Authority’s assessment is that given the geographic and population size of the country, and the ongoing migration to a converged licensing regime, it is no longer prudent to continue accepting new telecommunication license applications as this may result in unnecessary duplication of infrastructure and a waste of scarce financial resources which can be diverted to other types of infrastructure…”
While no one wants resource wastage through infrastructure duplication, the current IAPs are clearly failing to provide Internet access to the nation. Broadband internet costs an arm and a leg, there’s no Internet-ready functional telecommunications infrastructure to speak of in the rural areas and the only ubiquitously available internet channel is Econet’s GPRS but even that doesn’t cover remote areas like Mberengwa where basic connectivity is also required.
The suspension is likely to hurt the consumer more as additional players would have brought in some competition to an industry where operators are currently charging exorbitant amounts for international bandwidth. It would have also forced IAPs to be more innovative in coming up with low cost but efficient Internet solutions for consumers.