Speaking on the sidelines of the African Telecommunications Union conference here in Harare yesterday, the POTRAZ acting director general, Alfred Marisa, said that most that internet providers have not been made to pay the new VSAT landing rights fees. POTRAZ, he said, is considering reviewing the regulatory fees yet again as it seems it the new fees have had the unintended effect of increasing the cost significantly for operators to the point that VSAT services would become expensive for ordinary users.
Marisa explained that when the government changed the landing rights fees last year from $36,000 per year for a VSAT private network hubbed outside the country (which is most of the VSAT in Zimbabwe), to US $1,500 per each VSAT installed it was in the spirit of making VSAT more accessible to ordinary internet users and organisations. The change however means those internet providers that resell international VSAT services have to factor in the $1,500 in the monthly service price of each VSAT.Effectively, the cost of the VSAT service per month, to cover regulatory fees only, is US $125.
That at least some operators were not paying the fees came to the fore in May when TelOne, a government owned fixed line operator and internet provider, launched a VSAT service priced at $51 a month. The question raised in the market by some operators was therefore whether TelOne was paying regulatory fees like all other operators are required to.
Also responding to us on the issue, the ICT ministry deputy minister, Dr. B.J. Mlambo, told us yesterday that no operator, including those owned by government, get favourable licensing conditions from the government.
Marisa said yesterday that while they consider how to review the regulations again, they have allowed operators like TelOne (and others he named) to sell VSAT solutions without paying the landing rights fees for now. He however wouldn’t confirm if this ‘waiver’ was deliberate or only extended to those operators that had requested it.