By Branton Matondo and Tafadzwa Madimbu
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) recently released a notice highlighting its commitment to advancing satellite internet services in the country.
This announcement reflects POTRAZ’s position on satellite broadband but questions have been raised on the lack of dedication towards bridging the digital divide in the country.
POTRAZ’s underscores the importance of satellite internet services in expanding reliable connectivity throughout Zimbabwe.
By partnering with leading international satellite internet providers, POTRAZ aims to overcome infrastructural limitations and ensure access to high-speed internet in remote and underserved areas.
The notice highlights key developments such as the deployment of advanced broadband infrastructure, increased bandwidth capacity, and the implementation of affordable pricing models for satellite internet services.
“Under the current licensing framework, the provision of internet by means of satellite systems can be done by Public Network Operators or by foreign-based satellite service providers/operators. A foreign-based Satellite Service Provider/Operator can offer services in Zimbabwe using any of the following options, ” read a statement published by POTRAZ.
“Under this arrangement the Satellite Operator and the local network Operator enter a Virtual Network Operator (VNO) agreement, that must be approved by the authority, to ensure that the public network operator meets legal and regulatory requirements stipulated in the licence.
A Satellite Service Provider/Operator can apply for their own licence that would authorise them to provide services.
End users can apply for private network licences which would authorise the utilisation of externally operated Satellite systems.”
Licensing end users of satellite internet will have clear cut disadvantages that should be considered.
While satellite internet offers unique advantages in terms of coverage and accessibility, the licensing of end users can introduce a fair share of limitations and challenges.
To narrow it down, licencing end users will result in limited competition within the satellite internet market if the licensing process is too stringent.
This lack of competition has a 60% chance that it will lead to higher costs for end users and limit their options when it comes to service providers.
Licencing end users of satellite internet will contribute to increased costs for both service providers and end users.
Providers may need to invest in additional infrastructure, regulatory compliance, and licensing fees, which can be passed on to consumers.
This can make satellite internet services less affordable, particularly for individuals and businesses in underserved areas who may already face financial constraints.
More-so, licensing requirements can potentially slow down the deployment of satellite internet services.
Obtaining licences and meeting regulatory obligations may take time, causing delays in bringing connectivity to remote or underserved regions.
This delay can impede the timely delivery of essential services, such as education, healthcare, and emergency communications, to those who need them most in our remote areas.
While regulatory measures are important in ensuring quality and compliance within the telecommunications sector, the licensing of end users of satellite internet services by POTRAZ poses significant risks to freedom, accessibility, and innovation.
By restricting access, hindering competition, increasing financial burdens, and licensing perpetuates the digital divide and limits the transformative potential of satellite internet connectivity.
Instead, a more inclusive and unrestricted approach is needed, focusing on fostering competition, encouraging innovation, and ensuring affordable access for all Zimbabweans.
By embracing a regulatory framework that promotes freedom and accessibility, Zimbabwe can truly harness the power of satellite internet technology to bridge the digital divide and empower its citizens.