Zimbabwe: Potraz Defends Licensing Rules on VoiP and data licences

Telecoms

The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) says the country's licensing framework is conducive for operators despite claims that it was holding back expansion plans by players.

Players in the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector have previously said that restrictions on the part of the regulator are stifling progress and employment creation opportunities in the fast-moving sector. Alfred Marisa, the Potraz Deputy Director General said there were some operators who wanted free licences but that could not be permitted.

"There is nothing for free in this world," said Marisa. "Some operators want to provide all possible ICT services using a data licence but that can't be allowed, they should simply get the appropriate licence."

Marisa said the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and data services did not necessarily get closer regulatory attention as compared to other telecommunication services. "There has been an attempt by some operators to provide VOIP services using a data licence, which is not allowed by the laws of this country.

"The desire of the regulatory authority is to ensure that these services are priced properly and that acceptable quality of service is maintained," he said.

VOIP allows individuals to make phone calls over a broadband internet connection with the advantage of by-passing the tolls charged by ordinary telephone services. "Our view is that data and internet are the growth areas especially given that provision of voice telephony is now very widespread," he said, adding that access to internet was still very low in most developing countries.

Marisa said more focus should be on provision of broadband by local ICT companies saying this allowed easier access to data and internet services. "While voice telephony still looks like lucrative business here, in other countries in Europe and elsewhere voice services are now part of a data/internet bundle," he said.

Potraz recently issued a new requirement that compels all operators of hot spots to register with the regulatory authority. Operators have been given until June 30 to comply.