Zimbabwe’s Econet Wireless said on Monday the government’s requirement to have mobile phone operators share telecommunications infrastructure was a disguised move by authorities to seize the assets.
Econet, which owns 80 per cent of telecoms infrastructure, said in a statement that although it agrees to share infrastructure such as base stations – metal towers with antennas and other electronics – the firm was unlikely to benefit much from sharing with its rivals’ smaller networks.
“Therefore, the type of infrastructure sharing under debate is not feasible. It is a disguised, unconstitutional form of compulsory acquisition of our infrastructure,” Econet said.
Supa Mandiwanzira, Minister for ICT, Postal and Courier Services, rejected Econet’s accusation and said in a statement the government is considering creating a single firm to house the southern African country’s mobile phone infrastructure.
He blamed the mobile operators for erecting mobile phone transmission towers at similar sites instead of sharing the infrastructure to reduce tariffs.
“The key objective for infrastructure sharing is to make services cheaper for consumers and save the country unnecessary cost of infrastructure importation,” Mandiwanzira said.
Zimbabwe’s telecoms regulator in January forced mobile phone operators to slash voice calls to 15 cents from 25 cents. The regulator wants rates to fall further to 9 cents next year.
Other mobile phone operators in Zimbabwe are Telecel, which is majority owned by Amsterdam-based mobile operator Vimpelcom, and government-owned NetOne.