The Postal and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has this week published a public notice advising the regulatory position on the usage of Wi-Fi devices. You can view the full notice here.
The notice basically specifies some technical requirements that all ‘Wi-Fi’ devices need to meet and states that Wi-Fi equipment is subject to “Type Approval” by POTRAZ. Another new specific requirement is that all operators of Hot spots need to register with POTRAZ. Until now, this was not an explicit requirement case
The new requirements take immediate effect and operators have been given until the end of month to comply (30 June).
We talked to some officials at POTRAZ and we were told the regulatory requirements have been published so POTRAZ can deal with the issue of Wi-Fi devices interfering with licensed radio spectrum. Apparently POTRAZ has been receiving numerous complaints from licensees for some time now over the issue.
Some mention of last year’s ZOL/Telecontract nasty row was also made while we discussed. Just to recap, here’s an extract from the article we did in October 2010 on the issue:
…the Sunday Mail [said it] is in possession of a letter written to POTRAZ by the Zimbabwe Internet Access Providers Association (ZIAPA). The letter accuses POTRAZ of “failing to stop illegal activities perpetrated by unlicensed operators that have left the country exposed to a high security risk”. The letter also indentifies ZOL as the major culprit. According to the article, the letter was written by ZIAPA chairperson, Shadreck Nkala.
Mr. Nkala is the Telecontract CEO.
You will remember that ZOL issued a statement to clarify the issue.
We contacted the ZOL CEO, David Behr, to get his view on the notice and here’s what he had to say:
I am delighted POTRAZ has published clear and precise regulations on the typical “wi-fi” band frequencies. Not doing so was risking turning every laptop and cellphone user into a criminal and subjected his or her handset to seizure. ZOL is the largest hotspot operator in Zimbabwe with over 150 ZOLspots allowing high-speed Internet. ZOL has worked closely with POTRAZ for over a year to ensure compliance since unfounded allegations were made about our hotspots. The equipment ZOL uses has already been approved by POTRAZ, and POTRAZ has visited many of our ZOLspots to confirm their compliance. With these new regulations we expect to see an explosion in low-cost services delivered over wi-fi. Well done POTRAZ!