Local fixed telecoms operator, TelOne, will play a central role in Zimbabwe’s plans for telecoms infrastructure sharing by housing the division that will manage the infrastructure for four state-owned companies – Africom, NetOne, TelOne, and ZETDC (it owns Powertel).
Speaking in a recent interview, Charles Shamu, the TelOne chairman clarified TelOne’s involvement in the government’s infrastructure sharing plans.
A shared infrastructure model ensures that operators do not duplicate resources in network rollout, thereby reducing network expansion costs (providing an opportunity for the reduction to be passed to the consumer) and increasing the chances for wider coverage from all participating service providers.
As part of the plans made towards this so far, TelOne has now been split into 2 operation divisions – Retail, and Infrastructure and Wholesale. The infrastructure arm will manage the equipment for TelOne and the other 3 companies.
According to Shamu, the decision to operate the infrastructure and wholesale side as a division for now and not as a separate company was made to avoid the creation of barriers and to allow easier management.
Sharing with the privately owned operators
Government’s plans to share the infrastructure owned by its own telecoms operators are long overdue, considering the different arrangements that each provider has made to secure resources for network expansion.
However, the proposed framework would also benefit immensely from an inclusion of private sector operators that have also made extensive investments in network expansion across the country.
Following government’s acquisition of a controlling stake in Telecel, the privately owned operators are effectively just the companies under the Econet Wireless banner, Liquid Telecom and Econet Wireless Zimbabwe.
These two have made the widest investment in terrestrial fibre and mobile network infrastructure in Zimbabwe and have expressed their scepticism of an infrastructure sharing arrangement that ties them with State-owned operators.
Despite these differences, some room has been made for private players. Shamu says that following an audit of the infrastructure that’s being shared by the 4 companies, the private sector will be approached with the intention to pool all evaluated infrastructure and have a separate company where each provider has shareholding based on their contribution