The telecommunications Potraz has stated that they are interested in having more mobile network operators in Zimbabwe. Potraz director-general Dr Gift Machengete alluded to this as being the best solution to the problems consumers are facing which include steep charges which are increased on a weekly basis and poor service that is experienced. This topic has brought much debate in the past with many feeling that more operators are not required.
In the past, the suggestion was that the protection of the existing companies in the industry was the top priority. This may have been true, however, this protection of the industry was largely to the advantage of Econet who have gone on to dominate the market while state-owned Net One and formerly private-owned Telecel have conceded the market to Econet. When Econet experienced challenges with Ecocash, the mobile payment system that the nation is heavily dependent on perhaps Potraz learned a lesson. A lesson which would quickly be emphasised when the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had to back down from a directive that banned cash in and cash-out transactions, effectively rendering Ecocash defunct.
The advantages for Potraz and ultimately the government of Zimbabwe are clear, increased tax revenue of any sort would be welcome as the economy stands. Mobile operators profits have largely been attributed to price increases they have been able to effect rapidly. The mobile operator licence fee would also net a pretty penny for the cash strapped government. Smaller operators such as CDMA band based Africom have been unable to make a dent in the market preferring to focus on providing internet connectivity solutions. Both Tel One and Zol have released mobile-friendly products that work on some LTE enabled phones.
The economy may not agree with the idea that more operators would be better. In US dollar terms tariffs and therefore revenue per user are likely down or will soon be. Inflation gallops on and this affects everything. Incomes are severely depressed in the economy in real terms. The project may not feasible if all factors including licensing and infrastructure are included. Also unclear is how much the customer experience would be alleviated. Can new operators simply come in and change the cost structure in the mobile network business? Highly unlikely. You cannot bring your own weather.