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Zimbabwe operators cry foul over license renewal

Zimbabwe operators cry foul over license renewal.

Only two operators in Zimbabwe, Econet and Telecel Zimbabwe, have renewed their licenses, according to state telecom industry regulator Potraz.

The organisation made the announcement in the wake of complaints by Econet Wireless that failure by some operators to renew permits was creating an uneven playing field in the industry.

State owned NetOne and fixed phone operator, TelOne, have not yet renewed their licences, according to the regulator.

"The other two operators are still operating using licenses that haven't expired but will be required to renew them when the time comes," the industry watchdog has stated.

Econet Chief Executive Officer, Douglas Mboweni has called for the equal treatment of operators and has previously disputed tariff cuts instituted by Potraz.

The operator renewed its license in 2013, while Telecel Zimbabwe had disputes with the government, culminating in its license cancellation in 2015, with the revocation subsequently lifted at the High Court.

This, together with alleged non-compliance with Zimbabwe's indigenisation policy, had culminated in VimpelCom selling its stake in Telecel Zimbabwe to the government, according to informed sources.

Founded by Strive Masiyiwa, the company has also had previous run-ins with NetOne over outstanding interconnection fee payments and interconnection with an alleged unlicensed operator.

"One of the main concerns that we have ... is to do with the uneven playing field when it comes to competition in the Zimbabwean telecoms industry," Mboweni said last week.

Mobile companies pay as much as US$137.5 million for license renewal in Zimbabwe, with the new permits having a 20 year tenure.

However, Potraz insisted that "there is a process for licence renewal" that has to be followed and emphasised that "no operator is exempt from paying license fees".

It also said NetOne and TelOne were "still operating on the basis of their old licenses" as they have not yet expired.

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