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POTRAZ to introduce compulsory infrastructure sharing in new regulations

POTRAZA report on the Malaysian national news agency site Bernama.com, says that POTRAZ, Zimbabwe’s telecoms regulator instituting regulation to make telecoms infrastructure sharing compulsory for telecoms operators in Zimbabwe. According to the information, which was sourced from Zimbabwe’s New Ziana; the new regulations are timed to coincide with the renewal of licenses by Zimbabwe’s major mobile operators, Econet, Telecel and NetOne next year. The new regulations will be announced soon.

“The work has been done,” POTRAZ director general engineer Charles Sibanda is quoted in the report, “what is now left is the announcement by the policy maker and hopefully the announcement will be made soon,”

In recent years, mobile operators have complained that fellow operators are unwilling to share passive infrastructure resulting in them investing needlessly in setting up towers for base stations. This has cause unnecessary delays in the expansion of telecoms services as well as, more importantly, the high cost of setting up operations being passed on to the consumers through high tariffs.

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In the past two years, separate submissions by Telecel and Econet to parliamentary committees have been that state owned mobile operator NetOne, refused to share its infrastructure with the other two in the years when it used to have the largest telecoms coverage in the country. Submissions by Econet CEO also suggest that NetOne is now complaining that Econet is refusing to share. Econet, the largest mobile operator by number of subscribers, now also commands the most expansive telecoms infrastructure in the country.

Dandemutande, one of Zimbabwe’s 12 POTRAZ licensed Internet Access Providers (IAPs) has also indicated in the past that the lack of infrastructure sharing arrangements, new entrants are forced to invest heavily upfront in passive telecoms equipment, taxes, licenses and levies.

According to the Bernama report, POTRAZ is also introducing the new laws to address issues of emerging technologies which are radically disrupting the existing licensing regime.


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21 thoughts on “POTRAZ to introduce compulsory infrastructure sharing in new regulations

  1. i totally think its the way to go. Im working on a project in an African country for a UK based Tower management company. To be honest with you call rates are significantly low in this part of the world. Local calls are as low as $1/40-60min on the same network. Its such a poor country but the people are well connected all thanks to infrastructure sharing. The company is expanding rapidly across Africa but they have no intention of heading to Zimbabwe due to legislation which they feel is unsustainable. Internet is significantly low compared to Zim. This does not even need Potraz to enforce. If companies such as these had the opportunity to come to Zim then you were going to witness all service providers (mobile/internet/radio/tv) rushing to have towers managed by this service provider to expand their services across the breadth of Zim in the shortest possible time!!

  2. I hope POTRAZ will also make it mandatory for networks to allow people to move from one network to another without changing their cell numbers. For example, you should be able to move from ECONET to say TELECELL and still use your 0772 econet number. South Africa has implemented this arrangement successfully. It makes it easy to change networks for people if they are not happy with a network service provider.

  3. Its overdue.. but like most authorities in Zim, Potraz is being reactive. Hopefully they will look forward now and come up with new frameworks for moving us forward.

  4. This is ridiculous!

    Let’s say you are about 30 years old and you want to start a mobile telecoms business and the government takes you to court, and you face imprisonment if the court rules against you. Three years go by. Then you win the case, and a government official goes public saying “he will be broke within 6 months”

    Then Big Brother disbands the Posts and Telecommunications Corporation and creates a number of entities from it, Netone (mobile telecoms), Comone (internet), Telone (fixed line), and finally, creates Potraz (Postal &Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.)

    Potraz will regulate the industry.

    By the time you set up your first base station, Netone,and Telecel, run by faces connected-to Big Brother are leading mobile networks.

    Netone becomes the biggest mobile network with 20 000 subscribers, reaching every part of the country riding on the NRZ (National Railways of Zimbabwe) signalling system network (as the word on the street goes).

    You create jobs with you small network, pay taxes, and iver the next 14 years, bring in close to US$1 billion in foreign investment building base stations and importing network equipment etc. You even go into debt to do this, using yopur own assets as collateral, which you wouldn’t have done if Netone and Telecel and even NRZ shared their infrastructure with you.

    By 2008, you run the biggest mobile network, and Netone and Telone are not playing second and third fiddle.

    Big Brother still runs Potraz.

    By 2012, you control 70% of the mobile telecoms market.

    Potraz says mobile networks must share infrastructure.

    What is the moral of that story?

    Well, that’s what happens in communism.

    Zimbabwe, supposedly, is a free market economy and not a planned economy like in China – which itself is moving towards a free-market system -, yet now Potraz is doing the role of “economic planning” and the “allocation of resources” -PRIVATELY-OWNED RESOURCES, on behalf of the government.

    This is sure gonna be something foreign investors will watch and learn from.

    It is also nationalization by the back door.

    You can’t say Econet has built the infrastructure, at a heavy cost, then force Econet to share infrastructure with Netone and Telone, entities with clear links to Big Brother.(basically, forcing Econet to share infrastructure with the PTC, in a different name.)

    Potraz is destroying competition, now and in the future

    Instead of investing in their own infrastructure, these mobile networks will relax because Potraz will do something about sharing. It is robbing Econet shareholders to give to PTC (Netone and Telecel shareholders).

    Potraz is also the killing of thousands of potential jobs in Zimbabwe, at a time when the country enjoys 90% unemployment.

    If Telecel and Netone invest in their own infrastructure, there will be jobs created, thousands of jobs, Zimbabwean jobs!

    Telecel is “hugely” foreign-owned while Econet is distinctively Zimbabwean.

    Forcing Econet to share infrastructure therefore amounts to subsidizing a foreign company with blood, sweat, and tears of Zimbabweans – Econet shareholders and workers. This clearly contradits the INDIGENIZATION that is being touted by the Government of National Unity.

    There is also the issue of security.

    Perhaps this is the best way to enforce the “Interception of Communications” Bill.

    How can Econet guarantee its network and equipment will not be tampered with? How can Econet customers even feel safe?

    If Netone gets investment from MTN, China, Libya, Britain or whoever, it can build its own infrastructure and create thousands of jobs opportunities in the process.

    Potraz must learn regulation from Gideon Gono and let failing networks surrender their licences just like indigenous banks Genesis and royal did. If they are failing, let them fail, not rob Econet to subsidize “connected” incompetent businesses.

    What Potraz is doing is clearly unfair competition. If they wanted infrastructure sharing they should have enforces it when Econet was the smallest network.

    Each man for himself.

    Lastly, netone has been printing adverts claiming it set up environmentally friendly base stations is Harare (is it Newlands) by attaching network antennae a to palm tree.

    Why the heck can’t they just attach their antennae to trees everywhere and bee a very very green mobile network?

    1. I sense a lot of bitterness over nothing or something which is not very clear in your response but maybe try to consider the brighter side as well and weigh all options instead of being suspicious about everything and nothing. I believe we are talking passive equipment sharing not the active equipment therefore security is still there. We are also talking about 2 less towers per unit area.. which is a good thing environmentally. Econet has already gained a huge market share so ‘IF’ their service is good, what is there to be scared of?

      1. I sense a lot of bitterness over nothing or something which is not very
        clear in your response but maybe try to consider the brighter side as
        well and weigh all options instead of being suspicious about everything
        and nothing.

        You obviously are not a shareholder in Econet.

        Sharing infrastructure must not be decided by Potraz, but by market forces, including Econet shareholders.

        If Netone and Telecel had good business smarts, they would have done better than Econet. Why should Econet aid competition? Why punish success just to please madofo.

        Building towers will create jobs, and those towers by different networks will increase competition and even widen choice to anyone who wants to use that tower, even if Zesa wants to attach flood lights on them.

        We are also talking about 2 less towers per unit area.. which is a good thing environmentally.

        Like i said, Netone is attaching antennae to trees. It can continue to do that, and even Telecel can too.

        Plus, Netone and Telecel will effectively handover a infrastructure monopoly to Econet. They must simply build their own. That way, even Brodacom, Zol and others would have a choice of 3 towers, rather than penalize Econet shareholders for the success of their firm. Plenty of jobs would be created in the tower construction business, just like with laying the fibre optic cables.

        And Netone and Telecel can share those towers if they wish.

        A situation where the government is both a competitor and the regulator is totally unacceptable. The government must simply sell all its shares in those companies, then we can have fair competition.

        Econet has already gained a huge market share so ‘IF’ their service is good, what is there to be scared of?

        If Telecel and Netone’s service is good, why the heck do they want to use Econet infrastructure? Why can’t they build their own?

        Not all of us are just customers of mobile networks and therefore see everything with the eyes of a customer of a rival mobile network.

        1. I don’t doubt the fact that you do have valid points for a share holder but you need to understand that you have invested in the most volatile industry on the planet and changes are bound to come. Econet is full of bright people, I must say, and they have cleverly diversified the company in view of the volatility in their core business. Their infrastructural investment has given them dominance which they can maintain by becoming a full infrastructural manager for other networks like Liquid has become a provider for providers. Correct me if I’m wrong but don’t others pay rent when they mount their equipment on a competitor’s tower?..
          The industry needs to consolidate certain aspects of itself for the long term and I feel Econet is in the best position to be an infrastructure provider than any other. Do you really think voice, sms revenue will still justify all this investment in 10 years time? Why do you think Econet can afford to reduce charges on mobile WiMax data packages and not 3G( coupled with GSM)…..thats because the clever boys know their investments’ days are numbered ( think whatsapp, skype etc).

          For the record, I also love Econet and believe it stands to benefit if it can fully commercialize its infrastructure before a desperate ailing operator reduces its mobile data packages and spoil the market as people jump onto using Skype 24/7.

          1. Their infrastructural investment has given them dominance which they
            can maintain by becoming a full infrastructural manager for other
            networks like Liquid has become a provider for providers. Correct me if I’m wrong but don’t others pay rent when they mount their equipment on a competitor’s tower?

            There is plenty of land in Zimbabwe for Netone and Telecel to build infrastructre of the same size. Zimbabwe certainly needs strong mobile networks of equal size. This must not happen because of Potraz regulations, but through free-market competition.

            It is unacceptable to handover infrastructure management of the entire mobile telecoms industry to Econet by making it a landlord through Potraz regulations. Netone and Telecel must compete and build their own solid infrastructure rather than run on the back of Econet infrastructure. That way the entire country will always have a backup if anything should happen to one mobile network..

        2. Are you blind, mr “Shareholder”. The, Econet is not the only one with infrastructure. As a claimed shareholder, you are obviously oblivious of the monetary benefits.

          Lol@Shareholder. Thats a serious complex you have mate. Too emotional too, for an “investor”.

          1. It is not just about the money. When Econet lays down the fibre optic cable, it creates Zimbabwean jobs in a country with a reported 90% unemployment rate.

            When an Econet shareholder (just like a Powertel shareholder) drives down the Hre-Byo route and sees Zimbabweans hard at work laying the cable down, he feels proud that his company is creating jobs. Even if one should have one share in the company, he feel great to know that his share has created jobs worth more than the value of the share itself.

            It is not always about the money to many people. Many Econet investors certainly bought shares for the money, but right now, they feel they are part of a bigger cause, and not just money, because Econet even takes care of tens of thousands of orphans.

            The money Econet gets in rentals does not equate to the amount of lives that will be changed, as well as benefits to the nation, when jobs are created by Netone and Telecel when they construct their own towers and lay down their own cables/build their own infrastructure etc. instead of riding off the back of Econet infrastructure.

            It is not always about the money.

            1. Dont be silly. It is primarily about money, Mr Shareholder. Econet is not run so that they can help orphanages. Neither is it run so that they create jobs. Business is the cause. Others are effect.

  5. Idk, its like someone forcing me to share my bathroom with my neighbours after i put in Italian marble floors, armitage shanks amenities, jet bathtub and four head shower with built in fog proof tv. especially after i started off in a shack and they wouldn’t let me use their water once in a while. just doesn’t seem fair, even if we should let bygones be bygones.

  6. @55eda97a25a3b60bf00a370fa6836a8f:disqus i totally understand what you might think of this at first, but like i said before, if we have and open market, Econet wireless will be the first to jump for this option of sharing infrastructure. Its a well proven business model that brings huge benefits. A classic example i have witnessed is MTN (the biggest mobile operator in Africa) had initially refused to share infrastructure, then within 3 months a new player (which they denied colocating on their infrastructure) had equal coverage. This has made MTN reconsider its initial position. In short its expensive for Econet to build and maintain their infrastructure as compared to all the 12 IAPs colocating on the same infrastructure. This alone will mean significant reduction in the cost of mobile telephony services and internet. This will also in turn drive the demand for mobile services, mobile apps and unlock the developer talent we have lying idle. For your own information as well, in the working model that i know, sharing infrastructure dosent mean current infrastructure owners will lose out that fixed asset in their balance sheet. They can retain all their network investment and pay monthly rentals on some or all of their former infrastructure. Other smaller but potentially exciting players like dandemutande can then also bring in their innovative products for consumer benefits!!

    1. i totally understand what you might think of this at first, but like i
      said before, if we have and open market, Econet wireless will be the
      first to jump for this option of sharing infrastructure. Its a well
      proven business model that brings huge benefits. A classic example i
      have witnessed is MTN (the biggest mobile operator in Africa) had
      initially refused to share infrastructure, then within 3 months a new
      player (which they denied colocating on their infrastructure) had equal
      coverage

      You speak a lot of sense.

      The market must be open and free, not “planned and dictated” like in communism.

      It must be at Econet’s discretion whether or not to share infrastructure, not for Potraz to force Econet to do so, even putting a “price control” for how much Econet can charge.

      You can’t have the government being both the regulator (Potraz) and competitor (Netone/Telecel). This is unfair competition.

      in the working model that i know, sharing infrastructure dosent mean
      current infrastructure owners will lose out that fixed asset in their
      balance sheet. They can retain all their network investment and pay
      monthly rentals on some or all of their former infrastructure

      Many people have not forgotten the price controls on bread, mealie meal, fuel etc. and the massive told national suffering that followed.

      Bakeries still owned the assets but the bread they produced had to be sold at the price the government dictated and at the end of the day, there was not bread in the shops. Shareholders suffered and saw their equity reduced to nothing.

      That is how Lobels bakeries died, and was acquired by folks with Big Brother links, who even failed to save it after price controls were lifted. Now Lobels’ creditors, CBZ and FBC (Big Brother businesses) are said to have found a suitor for Lobels because the going at Lobels is not as easy as eating thick porridge served with vegetables.

      The same thing happened to fuels etc. with the government later coming up with dubious ideas like growing jatropha in your yard for the country to be self sufficient in fuel. And how did that go? Where are we now?

      Then there were exchange controls with a pegged exchange rate that effectively killed the whole economy until commonsense prevailed and the US dollar ruled.

      I don’t want to see Econet go the same route and then when i is destroyed, it is allowed be all it can be, after it is thoroughly finished. After all, Econet is the biggest taxpayer in the country. If it dies, next to go up is your income tax since the precious diamonds and agriculture are not paying.

      It must be up to Econet to share infrastructure, and at its own terms.

      Today it may be towers (which still will be on Econet’s balance sheet just like happened with the bakeries), but tomorrow even more… until slowly but surely, Econet is effectively a state-controlled listed company, with ceremonial shareholders, with Big Brother exercising control without any shares through Potraz regulation after regulation.

      It must be up to Econet to share infrastructure, and at its own terms.

  7. About time! Hoping that they have a fair process of compensation and distribution of expense.
    It is a progressive step and means
    – roll-outs of promised services can reach the consumer sooner(all networks)
    – the service providers have less capex going to infrastructure, since expense is shared. So can focus on other value adding activities…and save on profit
    – we dont see this continuous distruction of civil infrastructure and degradation of the environment IN PARALLEL

  8. @Prosper do not personalise the issue and fight econet’s wars as if you are employed by the company.I also advise you not to diss the govt on your every post coz i have observed this many times.What makes you think that when potraz makes regulations they are out to favour netone and supress econet when in fact this is the same regulator that granted econet spectrum to launch 3g back in 2007 ahead of netone.Netone can go it alone & the only loser will be telecel coz their network is not established countrywide.Econet is not a saint coz despite its monopoly and huge profits they do not offer promotions like netone and telecel do.Whatever you do say leave the govt where it is not concerned and do not become an unchallenged boxer on this forumn.Lastly do not refer to the govt as big brother coz it is the same that gave econet their licence ,relaxed duty on telecomms equipment and forced per second billing when the operators where fleecing you.ZVIMWE TENDAI HURUMENDE IYEZVINO MAAKUGOOGLER MUCHIFUDZA MOMBE.Potraz does not apply laws selectively!

    1. I also advise you not to diss the govt on your every post coz i have observed this many times.

      I don’t diss the government and i never did. You claim I did so so many times, i dare you to reproduce the dissing and the many times you talk about. I wont ask you to show me the dissing on every post which is nopt ture and a malicious falsehood, but i dare you to show me the many times you claim.

      Just because i do not agree with something an arm of government is doing, it does not mean I have anything against the government. And if i do not agree with, even the government as you claim, many times, are you saying I am wrong not to.

      last time i checked, Stan Mudenge a few years ago said people must engage in “constructive criticism” and not just oppose the government for the sake of it. “Constructive criticis” is what I am doing.

      I fear for the future of Zimbabwe when those who who beg to differ on something are implicitly silenced.

      do not personalise the issue and fight econet’s wars as if you are employed by the company.

      I am not fighting Econet’s wars, and even if i worked for Econet I would not fight its wars.

      What you must understand is that there is a difference between standing up for entrepreneurship and job creation and even fair competition, and fighting for Econet. Ther is a huge difference right there.

      As an entrepreneur, i don’t want to see a trend where every business becomes orced to do something just because it has become successful.

      In the United States and even South Africa, you are free to share your opinions, even if it be a government policy. Are you saying Gono who is publicly on record as saying he is not in favour of indigenizing foreign banks is “dissing” the government? Please stop inflaming the public with your flawed insinuations and flawed judgement of my posts.

      I am not fighting Econet’s battles. I would not want what is now happening to Econet happening to me, or any other entrepreneur, including you.

      this is why Obert MpoFu said people who have never invested in the diamond industry must shut up when some people in government (minister of Finance) started saying the government must nationalise diamond mines, of which he has an intertest (Mbada Diamonds.)

      So, is Obert Mpofu, a government minister, dissing the government he is part of?

      No nation thrives without dialogue.

      Zimbabweans needs jobs, and if it means towers be duplicated so people can be employed, so be it.

      I am not going to bother answering the rest of your concerns.

  9. If you think you are not dissing govt and it’s companies then why only mention netone in your comments .You sounded as if netone is the only company that wanted to benefit from infrastructure sharing & there is no mention of africom,brodacom there.It was big brother and netone all the way.It was a furious comment hell bent on anger that netone wants to benefit from econet & to cap it all the last statement that netone is erecting green base stations blah blah blah clearly showed your bias towards econet and also made your comment look as if you are fighting econet’s wars.For your information econet is not the face of entrepreneurship in zim.If econet does not want to share towers it does not not mean netone will sink into oblivion.They can simlpy share with other operators who are willing and let good old econet go it alone since they have got plenty of money.Your comment would have been fair if it involved all the other operators.

    1. You obviously do not read my comments, and maybe now since they vane been split, following them may be hard.

      If you think you are not dissing govt and it’s companies then why only
      mention netone in your comments .You sounded as if netone is the only
      company that wanted to benefit from infrastructure sharing & there
      is no mention of africom,brodacom there

      Netone is not the government and i mentioned a lot of companies in my comments.

      I also did comments about Brodacom, Africon, Dandemuntande and more in a comment which i suppose is awaiting moderation or deleted.

      In one comment I said if all 3 network have towers, Brodacom, Dandemutande etc can also rent those towers. The construction of those towers creates jobs, Zimbabwean jobs.

      Besides, one tower cannot serve Africom, Brodacom and others, jut that on tower. it creates a monopoly situation to have one tower in an area and a tower iotself has limited space.

      If Brodacom/Dandemutande has a choice of 3 towers, it increases competition for tenants and it can end up paying a sensible rental fee. More towers mean more services that can potentially be created/used/incorporated. When i see a tower, I am thinking beyond just the 3 mobile networks.

      For your information econet is not the face of entrepreneurship in zim.

      Certainly it is not, and i never said it is. I believe there are many Zimbabweans who can certainly exceed Masiyiwa’s achievements, and many more who will do bigger things and even better than Masiyiwa. I think even Masiyiwa himself will tell you that.

      to cap it all the last statement that netone is erecting green base
      stations blah blah blah clearly showed your bias towards econet

      It does not show any bias. Celtel (Now Zain) built its first network attaching antennae to palm-trees, even expanded into DRC doing the same thing, and it was eventually sold for billions. Why can’t netone continue attaching antennae to trees? is there anything wrong with me saying they must continue on their green trail? I am sure Netone, just like (well, let me say) Telecel can build its own towers.

      1. I made a spelling error in the fourth paragraph where it says “Africon” which should be “Africom”. It was a genuine mistake, which i had to state/clarify here before you accuse me of calling Africom something else. “n” and “m” are next to each other on my keyboard.

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