The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), says it cancelled nearly 10 licences for Internet access providers who failed to roll out their businesses.
Speaking during the third edition of an online economic development outlook seminar hosted by Global Renaissance Investments (GRI), Potraz technical services director Nicholas Muzhuzha, said some aspiring operators applied for licences but failed to take off due to lack of adequate investment.
The sector is capital intensive. Mr Muzhuzha said failure to operate attracted cancellation by the regulator.
"We cancelled close to 10. We had quite a number of licences for Internet access providers at some point, but Potraz had to cancel most of them for failing to operate. When you get a licence you should roll out and provide service to the consumers.
"Potraz has not created monopolies in this area, but the ones that are operating now have made significant investment into this service. The investment required in this sector is significant and some fail to attract meaningful investment to roll out," he said.
Mr Muzhuzha, however, could not be drawn into disclosing the names of the affected companies for client confidentiality reasons.
According to a Budd Comm report on Zimbabwe- Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband Statistics and Analyses, limitations in international bandwidth for the country - landlocked - has for many years held back development in Internet and broadband sectors, but this has changed since fibre optic links to several submarine cables were established via neighbouring countries.
The report further notes that the expansion of 3G and LTE-based broadband services have meant that more than half of the population can now access the Internet. With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on businesses, the sector will not be spared at both operator and consumer level.
For an economy that was already facing challenges prior to the pandemic, it is anticipated network service providers will have difficulties maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure due to foreign currency shortages, while on the part of consumers side, disposable incomes will continue to dwindle.
However, Potraz says it is working on a regulatory framework that among other issues, will enhance interoperability, which will in turn make telecommunications services affordable to consumers while remaining viable for the operators.
"You find in some instances three towers on a hill by the mobile network providers. This doesn't make sense.
"We have agreed with operators that in such cases, we remove the other two and relocate them elsewhere and Potraz will fund the relocation exercise.
"This will ensure there is no duplication of infrastructure. "If infrastructure is shared, operators will compete to provide services which will be cheaper to consumers as well," said Mr Muzhuzha.