Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira yesterday accused Econet of hypocrisy by pretending to be against infrastructure sharing with other mobile services companies when it was already sharing equipment with TelOne and ZETDC.
In a statement last night, Minister Mandiwanzira gave Econet an ultimatum to remove its equipment that it was already sharing with other telecommunication services providers if it was genuine.
This followed a statement issued by Econet yesterday that the current debate on infrastructure sharing appeared to be aimed at compelling it to make its infrastructure available for the use by others who chose other investment priorities.
“If Econet is very serious about its statements published today (yesterday) that it rejects infrastructure sharing, we hereby challenge them to remove their equipment and that of their related company Liquid from all TelOne and ZETDC infrastructure which they already enjoy significant sharing,” said Minister Mandiwanzira.
“I challenge them to remove their installations on TelOne infrastructure and for Liquid to remove their fibre optic cable on ZETDC pylons by Friday this week. If they do so within this timeframe, then the Government of Zimbabwe will take their position to reject infrastructuire sharing seriously.”
Minister Mandiwanzira rapped Econet for taking its reservations to the media instead of engaging the Government through his ministry.
“Since my appointment in December 2014 I have not received from Econet any request to discuss this or any other issue they might have with regards Government policy pronouncements. I have not made it a secret of my availability to any player in the sector who wishes to discuss any matter of relevance or importance to the sector,” said Minister Mandiwanzira.
“So I consider the pronouncement from Econet a very rude way of communicating with Government. I can only conclude that there is a hidden agenda to whip up public sentiment against the Government and its policies with Econet playing victim. This mischief is most unfortunate.”
Infrastructure sharing, Minister Mandiwanzira said, was not a Government invention or a “Supa Mandiwanzira concept,” but was a global practice done to rationalise investments in the telecommunications industry to avoid duplication or triplication.
The key objective, he said, was to make services cheaper for consumers and saved the country from unnecessary infrastructure importation.
He said Zimbabweans were being overcharged by cellphone companies on both voice and data and the companies argued that they wanted to recover their money which they invested in infrastructure.
“As a Ministry we are very concerned that data charges being levied on Zimbabwe subscribers by most networks, especially Econet, are unjustified except when you are resisting infrastructure sharing. Therefore no mobile network, no matter how big or arrogant , should be allowed to grandstand in the media by pretending to be the protector of consumers when it is in fact extorting the consumers by its totally overpriced products.”
Minister Mandiwanzira said it was environmentally unfriendly and economically unsound that each company brings its generator, security guard, imported steel, towers, passing the costs to consumers when one of each was enough for the three operators
In its statement yesterday, Econet said its view of infrastructure sharing entailed parties that invested in different geographical areas agreeing to share on an equitable and reciprocal basis to avoid duplication.
Econet said it was unfair to compel sharing where one party did not have the infrastructure that the other needed and described such moves as tantamount to compulsory acquisition of infrastructure from one operator for the benefit of another who chose to invest in other assets.