Telecoms infrastructure sharing rules by August

Minister Chinamasa

Minister Chinamasa

Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe expects to finalise regulations for mandatory infrastructure sharing in the telecoms industry by August. This follows consultations that started in April last year to establish the best method of enforcing infrastructure sharing to reduce service costs and promote investment.

Subsequent to the consultations, Potraz came up with a consultation paper on the sharing of infrastructure, followed by a multi-stakeholder workshop in December.

The workshop was successful as it convinced most participants on the need for infrastructure sharing in Zimbabwe, culminating in consensus to pursue the matter further.

Potraz then set up two industry expert working groups to deliberate on technical modalities and commercial/Legal aspects for infrastructure sharing in Zimbabwe.

“The two Expert Working Groups have since been set up and are currently working towards coming up with draft technical details and commercial and or legal aspects of the infrastructure sharing framework,” the telecoms regulator said.

According to Potraz, sharing telecoms infrastructure could cut costs by 15 percent to 30 percent and reduce operators’ annual capital outlay by up to 60 percent.

Findings from a study carried by the local telecoms regulator showed that capital expenditure accounted for up to 60 percent of the service cost to consumers.

This comes as it emerged that only 13 percent of the passive infrastructure in the local telecoms industry was being shared with widespread duplication countrywide.

Potraz also contends that sharing infrastructure reduces time for new entrants into the market, cuts down barriers and enables Zimbabwe to keep pace with the world.

Major telecoms operators in Zimbabwe include Econet Wireless, the biggest, NetOne and Telecel. Potraz believes less duplication will result in cost savings for operators.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa once said that he was unhappy with the level of infrastructure sharing, saying it raised the cost to end users.

It is against this that Potraz has started work to establish the framework for infrastructure sharing in the country, which Econet Wireless argues should not be mandatory.

Potraz working groups held their kick off and expert group meetings last month.

A plenary meeting will be held in June followed by consolidation of the input later that month.

Drafting of the infrastructure sharing regulations is scheduled for the first two weeks of July while circulation of the draft regulations is expected in the latter half of July.

This will be followed by one day public consultation workshop with processing of the final infrastructure sharing regulations expected to start at the beginning of August.

The expert working groups were tasked, among others, to develop the contractual arrangements and time lines for infrastructure sharing in the country.

This will encompass, basic ordering process, reference contract, filing of contracts, licensee rights and obligations, terms and conditions of sharing, procedure in case of non-payment and dispute resolution procedure, Potraz said.

Further, the groups will examine general principles, price setting methodology, role of Potraz, role of Government and its relevant arms and make recommendations on the modalities for establishing a one stop shop for sharing infrastructure.

In addition, Potraz said that the terms of reference for two industry expert working groups includes “analysing the various forms of infrastructure sharing and their applicability in Zimbabwe including: site, network and spectrum sharing, MVNOs, national roaming, tower companies and dark fibre companies.”