The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has responded to criticism from the country’s largest mobile operator, Econet Wireless, that it is not treating all operators equally. Econet’s Chief Executive Officer, Douglas Mboweni, has been quoted by local news portal TechZim as saying that there is an ‘uneven playing field when it comes to competition in the Zimbabwean telecoms industry’, going on to highlight the fact that some operators have not renewed their licences. But POTRAZ has hit back by saying that all four of the country’s mobile licensees – Econet, NetOne, Telecel and TelOne – are operating under valid concessions. It says that while Econet and Telecel have renewed their permits, NetOne and TelOne are still using old licences which are not yet due for renewal. Econet is the only fully independent cellco in Zimbabwe, with the other three wholly or partially owned by the state.
In January this year Econet launched a USD132 million legal case against POTRAZ, claiming the regulator had no authority to order mobile operators to reduce tariffs by 30% from 1 January 2015 and suing for lost profits. In addition, Econet said that while it paid a USD137.5 million fee to renew its operating licence in mid-2013, NetOne, Telecel and TelOne failed to pay for their own licence renewals, and this action was ‘discriminatory’.