ICT, Postal and Courier Services minister Supa Mandiwanzira says private players are slowly giving into the infrastructure sharing motive which will reduce voice and data prices for the benefit of Zimbabweans. He made these remarks at the ICT Africa 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa on Tuesday held under the theme Building a Better Connected Africa.
Government last year in November gazetted the Infrastructure Sharing Statutory instrument compelling all telecommunication companies operating in the country to share infrastructure. Mandiwanzira disclosed the companies had been reluctant to share infrastructure.
“There had been selfishness in terms of towers and length of fibre. A situation whereby in one site, you get three towers, three generators and three security guards is unsustainable. Private players are now seeing the benefits of infrastructure sharing and the cost to the consumer is reduced,” he said.
Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, in June said it agreed to share its fixed infrastructure as long as its competitors are prepared to foot maintenance costs on an equal basis.
Since last year, government has been urging telecommunications companies to eliminate “unnecessary duplication of telecommunication infrastructure” by maximising the use of existing and future telecommunications infrastructure.
However, Econet chief executive officer, Douglas Mboweni said his company’s offer to share infrastructure in 1998 was rejected by its competitors, who viewed possession of infrastructure as a competitive tool.
In May this year, Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira accused Econet of refusing to share its infrastructure with other telecommunications firms.
But Mboweni denied the charge, saying his company was already sharing its infrastructure with Telecel on a one-for-one basis.
“Right now, you may be interested to know that we have been sharing one-for-one with Telecel and that is the message that we have been carrying to all our colleagues. You build there, I build here, we share then we carry the obligation together. Any stakeholder who comes on that basis we have no problem. But for somebody to say ‘I want to fold my hands’ and I construct using my own resources and just come and put your staff on my equipment, that is not justice. We must invest in such a way that its equitable,” he said.
Mboweni urged competing players to borrow and develop their infrastructure and share equally with other industry counterparts.
“On the whole issue of infrastructure development, we are saying guys if we were all as creative as well as bold, why can’t we have other operators go and borrow and develop in other areas? Why is it that we are saying if you want fibre, go to Econet, if you want tower go to Econet? What do I get from you? So this issue of equity, even natural laws, there is fairness and justice that must be maintained,” he said.