Zimbabwe and regional technology news and updates


POTRAZ issues Wi-Fi regulatory requirements notice


POTRAZThe 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!

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16 thoughts on “POTRAZ issues Wi-Fi regulatory requirements notice

  1. “the regulatory requirements have been published so POTRAZ can deal with the issue of Wi-Fi devices interfering with licensed radio spectrum.”

    On what planet does a Wi-Fi device interfere with a licensed spectrum device. Can POTRAZ clarify what they mean by this?

        1. didn’t realise the question was directed at TZ. So, my bad. 

          My take is that POTRAZ may be licensing/approving certain uses of the frequencies (2.4GHz) used by 802.11 devices, and that depending on power levels the Wi-Fi device has, it’s range is interfering with other non-WiFi devices. 

          It may also be POTRAZ trying to protect commercial Wi-Fi deployments (public Wi-Fi) against non-commercial private deployments.

          Just my 2 cents. POTRAZ obviously would have the clearer answer on this. And we’ll try to get it. 

          1. If your 2 cents, is right, we could be on the right track with Potraz. I strongly feel, though, that the onus is on the players within the industry to maintain good comms and co-operation with Potraz such that self-regulating industry bodies like ZIAPA, ZISPA and I propose WAPAZ will be there to augment Potraz’s mandate whilst taming the operating environment in this Wild World Whosoever-wishes jungle! Potraz’s mandate is not to throw spanners in the works for innovators, trail-blazers or whatever you can call them, but industry players should be pro-active in constructive engagement with Potraz. On the other hand Potraz should be receptive and avoid headboy bully tactics. Zimbabwe should simply understand that WiFi connectivity is here to stay and it is simply foolish of anyone to outlaw WiFi last-mile-connectivity. I anxiously await Potraz comments, TZ. Many thanks for the sterling job!

  2. @Itai – it buffles me too how licensed spectrum and Wi-Fi interfere. Sometimes I feel my country’s obsessed with control.

  3. Each time I hear the word POTRAZ anywhere I shudder in fear in anticipation of something ______ coming up! I won’t even bother delving into the details of the regulations they have announced. Suffice it to say, I will content myself with pursuing and investing my IT skills and resources in neighbouring countries even though I am a born and bread Zimbo. The foresight and prudence of some of our neighbouring countries is simply remarkable and motivating. Life is too short! Why short-circuit your dreams and ambitions by incarcerating yourself inside POTRAZ’s sphere of influence. They are better dreams and options just a hop across the border.

  4. Of course there’s no such thing as ISM band interference with licensed band, but idiotic attempts by failed IAPs to ban WiFi last-mile-connectivity in Zimbabwe, thus making Zimbabwe non-existent on planet Earth, or that certain laws of physics do not apply to Zimbabwe! I am a bit surprised by David Behr’s accolades to Potraz and his optimism that this will open doors to “ubiquitous” WiFi services, as the published guidelines are not an improvement to their erstwhile stone-age regulations on ISM band! Perhaps the optimism stems from the requirement for registration which in turn should lead to the formation of a self-regulating industry body for Wireless Access Providers, WAPAZ, It is also important for POTRAZ to stop making Zimbabweans the laughing stock of the world by acting on technical nonsense from failed IAPs. I would welcome further comments from ZOL and others on this.

  5. POTRAZ is just counter productive. Instead of supporting and flexing some of the licencing requirements, they are actually tigthebning the screws such that very soon anyone buying a gadget with an wifi caed will be asked to licence it!!!!!!

  6. This ZOL CEO, David Behr is just a “criminal ‘ from what i see he doesnt want to see any new players coming …..How baffling

    1. Don’t you mean shadreck nkala?he’s thegenius who thinks wifi poses a ‘security risk’…Unless you hate wifi too.

  7. Im actually surprised that even a device that is as powerful as it can be can hop into onother frequency band….i come from a mathematical background and Potraz should prove that….instead of encouraging they are doing the opposite

  8. guys can somebody help me to  clarify on wi;fi hw does it originates and be more of untamed wave

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