Econet takes dig at Potraz

Mobile telecommunications giant, Econet Wireless, says statutory regulator, the Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, has no business in operational areas and needs to confine itself to being a “referee” in the sector.

Econet Chief Executive Officer, Douglas Mboweni
Econet Chief Executive Officer, Douglas Mboweni

Econet Chief Executive Officer, Douglas Mboweni, during a media briefing, said the technology concern did not understand why Potraz was reducing itself to the level of a “player”.

“It becomes dangerous when you have policy makers straddling into the arena of operators. They make the rules and we as operators are then supposed to operate within those rules. But when you have the referee then playing the ball we begin to have questions,” Mboweni said.

His comments come at a time when the tariffs fight in Zimbabwe’s mobile telecommunications industry has threatened to boil over. Potraz this week ordered Econet to reverse its decision to offer its customers the 10 cent-per-minute tariff and revert to the old 25 cents charge.

The telecoms regulator defended its position, saying the directive was in line with telecoms regulations.

“Tariffs charged by operators are regulated in terms of Section 100 of the Postal and Telecommunications Act, Chapter 12:05. As such, any increase or decrease in tariffs has to be approved by the authority in order to safeguard consumers as well as promote fair competition,” said Potraz.

But Mboweni thought otherwise and accused the regulator of overshooting its space.

“They (Potraz) have set a framework and they must allow us to run within that framework without hindrance. When you are a referee, you do not get to kick the ball or hold some player from kicking the ball.

“Let me say that maybe there are just misunderstanding as an operator. We know what is the world standard and we are aware of what is happening with MTN or Vodacom (in South Africa). If I am a bus operator and the regulated price is $10, I cannot charge more than that but for a regulator to ask me why I am charging $5 raises questions. If my bus is empty, I have to inspire people to hop in and those are the dynamics of pricing that should be allowed to happen,” said Mboweni

He refuted claims that Econet’s Buddie Zone had expired.

“It (Buddie Zone) has not expired …We call it dynamic tariffing and it is not a promotion but a permanent feature of the network. It is almost like calling 4G a promotion.

Meanwhile Econet yesterday became the first Zimbabwean operator to introduce the 4th Generation internet platform which, according to operators, makes the country only the 7th on the African continent to use the super-speed data platform.

“For us at Econet, innovation is not a destination but only a point in a journey. We do not look back at our handiwork, lest our competitors overtake us. We are always looking at ways of enhancing what we have.

“We never have the feeling of, “we have arrived”. The 4G LTE service will be available as of today (yesterday) in Harare, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls– in particular for the UNWTO– as well as all major hotels,” Mboweni said.

The company’s Chief Commercial and Customer Services Officer, Stanley Henning, said the 4G service would allow customers to hitherto uncharted internet speed of not less than 10 times better than the 3G currently in use across the country and generally across the world.

“4G will transform lives. It is about speed of access, downloads and uploading with speeds of not less than 65mbps (mega-bites per second) and requires 95 percent less time to connect than 3G.

“This service will initially be available on 4G LTE dongles only and we are working on modalities of availing it on LTE compatible mobile phones,” Henning said.

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