The government of Zimbabwe and the country’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, Econet Wireless, have clashed over the subject of infrastructure sharing. The government recently called on domestic operators to share their network infrastructure such as mobile phone towers in order to reduce rollout costs and allow them to cut charges for end users. Econet, which controls 80% of equipment already in place across the country, says the move would be a ‘disguised, unconstitutional form of compulsory acquisition’ of its infrastructure, since its closest rival – and the likely main beneficiary of mobile network sharing – is state-owned cellco NetOne.
According to a report from local news source New Zimbabwe, meanwhile, Communications Minister Supa Mandiwanzira has responded by challenging Econet and its Liquid Telecom subsidiary to stop using fibre infrastructure belonging to the state-backed fixed line operator TelOne and the electricity pylons of national utility firm ZETDC; ‘If they do so … then the Government of Zimbabwe will take their position to reject infrastructure sharing seriously,’ he said. Mandiwanzira went on to say: ‘As a Ministry we are very concerned that data charges being levied on Zimbabwe subscribers by most networks, especially Econet, are unjustified except when you are resisting infrastructure sharing.’