The government has blocked a bid by Econet Wireless to install a fibre optic cable linking Zimbabwe to high-speed undersea cables in Mozambique.
Transport and Communications minister Nicholas Goche told our sister publication, The Zimbabwe Independent, recently the service was already being provided by Econet competitor and State-run TelOne.
Government policy is that service providers must not compete for the provision of infrastructure, but on the provision of services, Goche said.
It is also government policy that the public sector must provide infrastructure such as national backbone and that mobile cellular companies ride on the infrastructure. That service is already being provided by
TelOne, which is connected to the undersea cables in Mozambique. Therefore, it would not have made business sense to have another company providing the same service.
But Information Communication Technology minister Nelson Chamisa said the move was not part of government ICT policy.
I am yet to talk to Minister Goche about it. It is government policy to make sure that we have access to the undersea cables as of yesterday, he said.
However, Goche urged the countrys three mobile phone operators Econet, NetOne and Telecel to consider sharing infrastructure such as base stations.
As alluded to earlier, government policy is that companies should share the infrastructure so that they can enhance the provision of services.
We are already persuading these service providers to share infrastructure through the Universal Services Fund. In terms of Section 4 of the Postal and Telecommunications Act (Chapter 12:05), the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe is mandated to exercise licensing and regulatory functions in respect of the allocation and use of satellite orbits and the radio frequency spectrum in Zimbabwe for all purposes, including the establishment of standards and codes relating to any matter in connection therewith.
Therefore, cellular companies should compete on service provision rather than on infrastructure, he said.
Goche also said a strategic partnership deal between MTN and TelOne was still under discussion.
Government is also into discussions with other possible strategic partners so as to have a comparative schedule of the offers before settling for one, he said.
With an estimated subscriber base of 5 million people, Econet is the top pick on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and dwarfs rival mobile phone operators, Telecel and the State-owned NetOne, on the local market.
The firm was founded by South Africa-based Zimbabwean entrepreneur Strive Masiyiwa.
Nearly two decades ago, Masiyiwa fought a bruising three-year court battle with the government after the latter denied him a licence to operate a mobile phone business in the country.
He only obtained the licence in 1995 following the intervention of the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo and abolition of the State-owned telephone services monopoly by the Supreme Court.
The full interview is in today’s the Zimbabwe Independent