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Zimbabwe: ICT Sector Chaos - Lack of Co-Operation Blamed
Source: The Standard
Source Date: Sunday, June 24, 2012
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government, Internet Governance
Country: Zimbabwe
Created: Jun 25, 2012

Lack of co-operation among telecommunication service providers in setting up infrastructure has resulted in higher costs being passed on to consumers, delegates at an Information Communication Technology (ICT) convention heard last week. Econet, Telecel and NetOne, among other service providers, have embarked on a countrywide fibre-optic rollout exercise aimed at providing better communications services. However, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has been criticised for failing to enforce infrastructure sharing regulations. Comm IT systems manager, Engineer Robert Ndlovu, pointed out that although service providers had reached 80% completion in laying out the fibre-optic cables, they were unnecessarily duplicating work through laying their own cables. "This is supposed to be a national fibre-optic cable not to be owned by any one. We call upon Potraz to enforce the idea of sharing infrastructure, because the costs of setting up this infrastructure are being used as an excuse to charge high prices," said Ndlovu. "Most importantly, as long as we don't have a backbone (a larger transmission line that carries data gathered from smaller lines that interconnect with it), then we will continue to face these problems." Despite the presence of an increasing fibre- optic cable network throughout the country and 12 Internet Access Providers (IAPs), internet remains expensive and slow. Zimbabwe is currently rolling out a fibre- optic cable laying programme connecting the country via Beitbridge, Mozambique and Plumtree. Once complete, the link is anticipated to enable faster internet and telephone connection and transmission linking the country and the world. A number of large companies in Zimbabwe are increasingly relying on information technologies in a bid to increase organisational efficiencies, streamline operations and automate business processes. Although Potraz has licensed 12 IAPs, very few have managed to install a comprehensive network at a prohibitive licence cost of US$4 million. An official from Potraz attending the convention declined to comment at length on the issue of infrastructure sharing, saying the authority was working on a framework that would allow operators to liaise when setting up infrastructure. Companies must share infrastructure: Ndlovu Ndlovu said laying fibre-optic cables is an expensive undertaking that requires high maintenance, so it would only be logical for the companies to share infrastructure which would lead to the lowering of capital expenditure, increased capacity and throughput, as well as cost efficiencies. "Although mobile penetration levels have improved in Zimbabwe, we still have low internet penetration levels due to limited last-mile connection and electricity challenges," he said. Last-mile technology is any telecommunication technology that transmits signals from the broad backbone along a relatively short distance to and from local homes or businesses. Last-mile technologies include wireless (satellite services) and optical fibre, among others.
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