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Tuesday, Jul 16th

Zim Telcos ‘refuse’ to share infrastructure

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Zimbabwe’s largest telecommunication companies are allegedly forging alliances with each other to prevent their rivals from using their infrastructure.

It is common in countries such as South Africa for rival telcos to share towers, in a bid to accelerate the roll-out of their mobile networks. The leasing out of towers is also an additional revenue stream for telcos.

But in Zimbabwe, Econet and Telecel, the country’s two biggest mobile operators in the country, are said to have forged an alliance with each other, in a bid to stave off competition.

The result is that firms such as Telerix Communications, which owns internet service provider Dandemutande, has been forced to share towers with the country’s state run power utility, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA).

Michael Weeden, acting chief executive officer at Telerix Communications, said the sharing of base station towers was something that has yet to be grasped by all firms in the country’s sector.

Weeden added that his company had approached the three mobile phone operators in the country – which have towers everywhere in Harare – but had failed to strike a deal.

Even state-owned operator NetOne is left in the dark.

“We share infrastructure with Telecel. We only have problems with NetOne,” said Chris Chirairo, finance executive at Econet.

The Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has a statute that forces companies to share infrastructure, but it has not been enforcing this in the cities and towns.

Baxter Sirewu, the technical services director for POTRAZ has previously said that the telecommunications sector regulator was imposing a pre-condition of sharing infrastructure developed in rural areas.

“In terms of these regulations, POTRAZ facilitates sharing of telecommunications infrastructure; however an operator may opt for commercial arbitration where there is no agreement regarding the issue of sharing infrastructure.”

Econet and Telecel have not answered questions presented to them by ITWeb Africa regarding their alleged refusal to share infrastructure.

Unintended consequences?

The lack of sharing telecommunications infrastructure in the towns and cities, however, has resulted in other unexpected consequences.

Last month, ITWeb Africa reported that POTRAZ wanted Internet Access Providers (IAPs) companies to limit the number of trenches they dig to lay fibre infrastructure.

Hilda Mutseyekwa, a POTRAZ executive, said at the time that the organisation was concerned at the rate at which IAPs were digging up earth for trenches.

“We do not need to have many trenches of fibre going in the same direction. It is also expensive for them (IAPs). There is no need for them to dig the ground but share and develop the infrastructure that is available,” said Mutseyekwa during the 2012 ICT Convention in Harare.

Robert Ndlovu, a local engineer, said IAPs should share existing infrastructure rather than digging too many trenches, which could be to the detriment of the environment.

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