Following the example of its neighbour South Africa, where MTN Group, Vodacom, Telkom, Liquid Telecom and Rain Networks have all been granted temporary additional spectrum, Zimbabwe has also announced plans to free up spectrum for emergency use.
The Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has allocated free wireless spectrum on a time-limited basis to the country’s three mobile network operators – Econet, NetOne and Telecel – in order to help them cope with increased demand for bandwidth during the coronavirus epidemic. Operators will be assigned additional 3G and 4G spectrum until December to help them to deliver data at a time when demand is much higher than usual.
As one commentator pointed out, this will also help customers who want to do business online but are trying to cope with limited income. Not just end users but businesses and schools, many of which have increased their online presence, are likely to join operators in welcoming the enhanced bandwidth provision.
However, this new development comes just after Econet raised data prices by 225 percent. In fact such rises in data costs could undermine government efforts to encourage internet access in Zimbabwe, where income and salaries have remained static. Meanwhile inflation and devaluation of the local currency against the US dollar have further added to the woes of the owners of the country’s 13 million or more mobile subscriptions.
Zimbabwe also offered additional spectrum for 4G services
“It is pluralism without diversity because the new owners are there to further entrench media concentration rather than amplifying marginalised voices,” Admire Mare, a senior lecturer in the Department of Communication at the Namibia University of Science and Technology, tells The Africa Report.
The new stations include:
- The Zimbabwe Newspapers Group trading as ZTN
- Rusununguko Media trading as NRTV
- Jester Media trading as 3K TV
- Acacia Media Group trading as Kumba TV
- Fairtalk Communications trading as Ke Yona TV
- Channel Dzimbahwe trading as Channel D
The move effectively frees the airwaves, with private television stations joining private radio stations as the Second Republic implements a raft of political, economic and social reforms to make Zimbabwe an upper middle income economy by 2030.
Since 1956, Zimbabwe had only one television service but upon assuming office in 2018, officials in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services pledged to license more.
Licensing of use of airways is required as frequencies and bands have to be allocated, and there are only a limited number of these in each country.
The winning applicants must go live within 18 months from the day the licences were announced, otherwise their licences will be passed to someone else after another round of applications.