Zimbabwe Minister of ICT, Nelson Chamisa would like to see the pressure on TelOne to meet fixed line subscriptions demands eased. How? By re-issuing TeleAccess (remember the guys that sat on a license for 2 years until it was taken back) with an operator’s license. According to the Herald, Chamisa will be meeting Attorney General Johannes Tomana to discuss giving TeleAccess another chance.
Similar meetings were talked about last year but it’s not clear what became of them. Chamisa’s reason remains; that “the Government would not tolerate monopoly, more so by an operator facing serious financial and infrastructure limitations to meet service demand” and that two operators will result in better service delivery.
TeleAccess was initially granted a license in January 2003 and the agreement with the telecoms regulator, POTRAZ, was TeleAccess would roll out their network and go live within 6 months. This did not happen. Daniel Shumba, the owner, blamed the stillbirth to funding problems and the economic downturn then. This got mixed with some political dabbling by Shumba himself, high employee turnover and wrangles with the regulator. Eventually, after two years and some months POTRAZ pulled the plug on TeleAccess, cancelling the license in December 2005.
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There’s no indication if, given another chance, TeleAccess will deliver on their promises and one would think it’d make more sense to invite other players that have proven ability to get the work done once granted a license. TeleAccess is at the courts seeking to repeal the license revocation by POTRAZ.
On the other hand, government owned TelOne has been unable to maintain its huge fixed line infrastructure because of the economic problems that riddled the country this past decade. Its little infrastructure in remote areas is aged and gradually falling apart from lack of maintenance, rendering most remote areas virtually disconnected. Organizations working in these areas have to rely on expensive VSAT satellite links and Econet’s mobile internet. There has been talk over the past few months of the Zim government’s intention to sell its stake in the two cash-strapped telcos, TelOne and NetOne to Telkom and MTN respectively. Changing hands (and some serious finance injection) might help TelOne start delivering again. We’re doubtful the answer lies in TeleAccess.