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No More Space for Mobile Firms

Zimbabwe is unlikely to license new entrants in the mobile telecoms sector in the foreseeable future, with the regulator saying due to limited electro-magnetic spectrum, which carries sound and data, a policy decision was taken to have only three mobile operators.

The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) also said the country’s scarce electro-magnetic airwave resource allowed for only two fixed telecom operators, but as many internet service providers as there could be.

Loosely, spectrum refers to the electro-magnetic air-wave on which wireless communication signals travel in the air via radio frequency, which facilitates transmission of services such as TV broadcasts, radio programming and global position system, which is used for global locations.

Technical services director Nicholas Muzhuzha, told a Potraz media engagement forum in Kadoma on Friday last week that in terms of Government’s policy position, Zimbabwe could only have three mobile and two fixed telecoms operators.

Mr Muzhuzha said the Government, mindful of the fact that the spectrum was a very limited resource, had taken the policy position that Zimbabwe would only have only three mobile network operators and two fixed telecommunications service providers.

“As such, Government said we will have three mobile network operators, two fixed network operators and as many internet service providers as can survive. As such, for three mobile network operators, they were already in existence when Potraz came to the scene and only had to regularise them in 2001,” Mr Muzhuzha said.

Mr Muzhuzha would not, however, speak on fourth mobile operator’s licence, which was issued to State fixed telecoms operator TelOne, but remains unutilised because of lack of resources to roll out services. Zimbabwe’s mobile telecoms sector is made up of State owned NetOne, the country’s oldest operator, Mr Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet Wireless and Telecel Zimbabwe.

There is only one fixed telecoms operator, State owned TelOne, as the private operator that was granted a licence in 2003, Tele Access, had its licence cancelled after it failed to start operations on the stipulated period. Mr Muzhuzha said in terms of the licence provisions the company was anticipated to start operations six months from the day of granting the licence, but failed to do so despite repeated warning over a period exceeding 24 months.

“Part of the licence conditions said within six months, the operator should have rolled out the service, but Tele Access did not have the resources to provide that service,” Mr Muzhuzha said.

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