HARARE - Zimbabwe has given telecommunications companies, including mobile network operators (MNOs), a 90-day ultimatum to conclude and launch an infrastructure sharing framework, a top government official has said.
Supa Mandiwanzira, Information and Communication Technology minister yesterday said telecommunications sector players must come up with a framework on infrastructure sharing before government can adopt it as a policy.
“We cannot continue consulting and consulting. We are not reinventing the wheel. This is a concept that has been tried and tested elsewhere including developed markets and it is working,” he said.
“So we don’t have to scratch our heads too much about a concept that the entire global industry has adopted and is already working,” Mandiwanzira told a TelOne-organised infrastructure sharing workshop.
Research has shown that companies can save up to more than 30 percent of capital costs if they adopt infrastructure sharing.
“It’s a no brainer. You don’t have to spend too much money studying, talking to each other, seminars and conferences about a subject that is so clear. We would like you to conclude as quickly as possible, in the next 90 days I would like to be invited as the ICT minister to launch the signing ceremony on infrastructure sharing among the players in the industry,” he said.
Mandiwanzira noted that if industry players were not ready, government — as the biggest player — would organise its companies to start implementing the measure.
“Unfortunately, we have not been well-organised but we have some ideas to organise ourselves. We own NetOne, we own TelOne, we own PowerTel and we own quite a significant fraction of Africom. We believe we can only get our own companies, and that is a single directive by the way, we will create havoc to those who say infrastructure sharing is not necessary,” he said.
Currently, Zimbabwe’s telecommunications operators individually invest and own infrastructure, giving established ones a competitive advantage.
The country has no standing regulation that promotes infrastructure sharing among telecommunications industry players.
Early this year Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) said telecoms operators and ICT firms could save up to 60 percent in capital expenditure if they adopt the infrastructure sharing model.
Mandiwanzira pointed out that concerns raised by some industry players about their investment at a time when other players were focusing on other activities were regressive.
“That thinking is colonial thinking. Our thinking must change. Infrastructure sharing must be able to stimulate growth. You are not going to stimulate growth if you are going share tower for tower.
“Players need to wake up to reality as a sector that if we don’t deploy measures of reducing our costs, we are going to deploy a lot of money building towers and other passive infrastructure to allow geeks from Silicon Valley to enjoy at our expense the revenues that our people are generating on mobile telephones,” Mandiwanzira said.
Jacob Munodawafa, Southern Africa Telecommunications Association representative, told stakeholders at the symposium that they should help Potraz in creating an enabling environment through an acceptable infrastructure sharing model supporting the growth of the sector.
“This will assist operators in obtaining a win-win approach to infrastructure sharing and stimulate the debates and contribute to a robust policy formulation from an informed point of view,” he said.
Munodawafa noted that industry players needed to allay fears and scepticism that infrastructure sharing may bring about and ensure a cost effective business approach in the sector in view of the limited resources available.