The adopted draft Infrastructure Sharing Regulations agreement by POTRAZ has been made available on their website. These will be made active through a statutory instrument as amendments to the Telecommunications Act. From the last stakeholders meeting and the general document, here are a few notable points that may shed light on some grey areas in the debate.
Infrastructure Sharing is compulsory – All license holders shall share infrastructure according to set procedures whether independently or on instruction from the authority, POTRAZ. So yes, Infrastructure Sharing is compulsory in the broader sense. One can only refuse to share if it is technically impossible to do so, it goes against national security or it is likely to cause damage of the infrastructure in question.
Infrastructure holders may reserve capacity – Operators shall be allowed to reserve capacity for future expansion but the reserve capacity shall not exceed 50% of the spare capacity and it shall be for a maximum five years at a time. Some stakeholders, especially from the consumer pressure groups were even advocating for shorter periods
First mover advantage – Before an operator sets up new infrastructure, they have to justify why they cannot use the infrastructure that has already been installed. In essence, those that already have infrastructure have the advantage though they have an obligation to avail that capacity to others, for a price of course.
First come first serve – The process tries to be fair in that the seeker who goes to the holder first will be served first even if it means capacity will run out afterward. TelOne cannot favor NetOne by processing their request preferentially if Econet has already applied. Sharing shall be impartial and nondiscriminatory.
Sharing Procedure – the seeker shall approach the holder with a request to share and the holder shall be required to respond to the request within fourteen days, failure of which the matter then escalates to POTRAZ. The holder can also advertise for expression of interest in leasing out infrastructure. POTRAZ may itself also direct players to share infrastructure where it is in national interest.
Independent assessment – Wherever the need arises for technical assessment, for example where there are disputes about available capacity, an independent engineer will be tasked with giving their professional opinion. If the parties are not satisfied, a panel made up of engineers from all operators may make an assessment and present recommendations. In that respect, a holder is obligated to disclose an infrastructure audit and impact analysis.
Quality of Service – The holder is obligated to ensure that QoS does not deteriorate for the seeker in a sharing arrangement. Any sharing parties shall also ensure that there is no reduction in the QoS, just in case they collude to prove a point.
Costs of sharing – When parties have agreed to share infrastructure, the seeker shall bear the costs of installations, disruptions and any eventualities. Where an operator has been instructed to share its infrastructure by the authority, they levy the cost of such a move onto the authority. With the in duplum principle, the charge for infrastructure shall not exceed the cost of the infrastructure. Also, the charges by the holder may not be levied in order to compensate for loss of business.