Technology

New telecoms regulations on cards as operators demand inflation-based tariff

TAURAI MANGUDHLA

Mobile network operators yesterday called on government to change the tariff regime from a telecommunications price index (TPI) based model to the inflation based consumer price index (CPI) and expedite regulatory convergence to ensure viability and usher in a new era of efficient running of the sector.

The TPI system reviews prices once in about three months while CPI is reported on a monthly basis, costing service providers and eventually resulting in huge shocks when tariffs are reviewed to catch-up, a telecommunication symposium held at the University of Zimbabwe Under its Faculty of Law, Commercial Law Institute heard yesterday.

“We need a convergence licensing regime because where we are going things are different. In the past, it was just telecom, but now it is TMTF so the licensing regime should look at telecoms, media, technology digitalisation and fin tech because they are also coming together,” Econet Zimbabwe chief business development officer Morris Newa said, adding that Fintech extends to banking and microcredit.

He said under the new regime, operators will get licenses for a mobile network which covers all related technology as it advances. Under such terms, their obligation is to inform the regulator when they upgrade or introduce new technology instead of seeking a license for such.

“If you know technology has moved, there is no need for a company to go to a regulator to ask for approval, say to introduce 5G, the players should just go to inform the regulator,” Newa said.

Lack of converged regulatory environment was causing serious delays in implementation of new products and technology. Potraz legal director Cecelia Nyamutsa said a convergence framework, to be known as Converged Licensing Regulations, will be out by year end as a Statutory Instrument. The new instrument speaks to licensing of new operators and new categories including mobile virtual network operators.

Nyamutsa said the instrument together with the new Postal and Telecommunication Bill are sitting with the Attorney General’s office. Newa said according to industry pricing regime, operators apply for price change but price adjustments are a function of TPI which determines where prices are taken from.

“The consumers need to understand the factors driving prices. Prices are changing and everyone has to understand. If TPI comes after three months the quantum leap is too huge. Petroleum takes leap increases every week, in telecoms we are taking huge leaps,” he said.

Telecel acting chief executive officer Angeline Vere said when reviewing tariffs, the foreign currency element comes into play given the nature of the business.

“Telecoms is a very capital intensive industry, we don’t manufacture base stations and switches. We buy from abroad in US dollars and the regulator should look at that when coming up with tariffs,” she said. Vere said the current telecoms legislation is also not elaborate on competition.

“The country has no Cyber Crime or Data Protection Bill yet. It was approved by cabinet and is in parliament. It’s taking too long, but citizens are suffering,” she said, adding interoperability is also not provided for through legislation. “We hope the amendments and new regulations will also address concerns of operators,” Vere said.

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