Econet sets conditions for infrastructure sharing

Source: Econet sets conditions for infrastructure sharing – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 23, 2017

THE country’s leading mobile telecommunications provider, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, says it has agreed to share its fixed infrastructure as long as its competitors are prepared to foot maintenance costs on an equal basis.

By Fidelity Mhlanga in Victoria Falls

Since last year, government has been urging telecommunications companies to eliminate “unnecessary duplication of telecommunication infrastructure” by maximising the use of existing and future telecommunications infrastructure.

However, Econet chief executive officer, Douglas Mboweni said his company’s offer to share infrastructure in 1998 was rejected by its competitors, who viewed possession of infrastructure as a competitive tool.

“Let me give you a bit of some history there so that we are on the same page. So remember that Econet was the last entrant in the telecoms market and by the time we came to the telecoms market, other players were already in the market for about two years. When we came in, we were the first proponent of infrastructure sharing and we said ‘guys, instead of duplicating infrastructure, let’s share what’s available’,” Mboweni told delegates at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Zimbabwe on Saturday.

“At that particular time when we approached our colleagues, there was a perception that infrastructure was a competitive tool and there was rejection and we were told ‘if you want infrastructure, develop your own’, which we did. Our model is very simple. We share infrastructure on an equitable basis. We call it one-for-one and we have stated it before and I am going to state it again.

“In other words, if I build in Gutu and somebody else builds in Gokwe. There is no need for me now to build in Gokwe and for you to build in Gutu. Now, instead of me putting another tower, I put my equipment on yours and also allow you to put yours on mine.”

Last month, Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira accused Econet of refusing to share its infrastructure with other telecommunications firms.

But Mboweni denied the charge, saying his company was already sharing its infrastructure with Telecel on a one-for-one basis.

“Right now, you may be interested to know that we have been sharing one-for-one with Telecel and that is the message that we have been carrying to all our colleagues. You build there, I build here, we share then we carry the obligation together. Any stakeholder who comes on that basis we have no problem. But for somebody to say ‘I want to fold my hands’ and I construct using my own resources and just come and put your staff on my equipment, that is not justice. We must invest in such a way that its equitable,” he said.

Mboweni urged competing players to borrow and develop their infrastructure and share equally with other industry counterparts.

“On the whole issue of infrastructure development, we are saying guys if we were all as creative as well as bold, why can’t we have other operators go and borrow and develop in other areas? Why is it that we are saying if you want fibre, go to Econet, if you want tower go to Econet? What do I get from you? So this issue of equity, even natural laws, there is fairness and justice that must be maintained,” he said.