Zimbabwe: No more room for new mobile operator licences but maybe MVNOs


Zimbabwe says it can no longer licence new mobile telephony companies due to limited spectrum, but some fear this could be a strategy by authorities to maintain a grip on the cash rich sector, as the government already controls two of the three operating networks.

Briefing parliamentary committee on information and communication technologies, Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), acting director general, Baxon Sirewu said the three were adequate to serve the market.

If we add more and more operators, we will constrain the operators in terms of the resources

Sirewu argued that due to limited spectrum, granting more licences to new players would hinder those that are already operating from expanding their services. "If we add more and more operators, we will constrain the operators in terms of the resources that will be made available to them," he explained.

However, the move could be viewed as part of a government ploy to consolidate its grip on the telecommunications sector through forcing mobile operators into infrastructure sharing and keeping the biggest mobile operator, Econet Wireless in check.

The southern African country has three mobile networks, Econet, NetOne and Telecel. State-run fixed telecoms operator, TelOne was handed a fourth licence, but limited financial resources have stalled the project.

POTRAZ, which is now under the Office of the President, has been holding meetings on infrastructure sharing, which Econet is opposed to, saying it built extensive infrastructure and the other two companies want to piggyback on it without investing.

Infrastructure sharing is common globally and it has proven to be one of the most effective ways of promoting affordable prices and reducing the duplication of huge capital investments in infrastructure by service providers.

A recent survey indicates that mobile penetration rate increased by 1,3 percent to 92,8 percent in the third quarter of 2015, reflecting a continued rise in cellphone use. Also, over $500 million was spent on prepaid cellular phone air time yearly, representing over 85 per cent of all ICT services expenditure. Cumulatively, over $1.1 billion goes to mobile phone credit and other ICT products and services.

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Source: The African Report 6 April 2016