The communications landscape in Zimbabwe is changing by the day. The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has indicated its intention to introduce legislation as well as systems to monitor telecommunications traffic and revenue assurance. In their Notice of Proposed Postal and Telecommunications (Telecommunications Traffic Monitoring and Revenue Assurance) (TTMS) Regulations, 2020, POTRAZ says:
Having benchmarked with other countries and taken note developments (sic) internationally on the benefits of operating the TTMS, and noting gaps in our current regulatory tools, the Authority has developed these draft regulations to facilitate national consultations on a regulatory framework that facilitates the introduction of appropriate measures to monitor traffic in Zimbabwe
There are nine identified objectives including these ones:
(ii) procure, install, operate and maintain a telecommunication traffic monitoring and revenue assurance system for the measurement of all forms of international incoming, international outgoing and interconnection traffic, at all international gateways and national interconnect gateways of all the telecommunication licensees
(iii) perform telecommunication traffic revenue assurance through monitoring of the billing and settlement of international traffic and national interconnection
(iv) analyse telecommunications traffic for fraud detection, termination of anti-fraud test calls and order the termination of services to SIM cards that are suspected to be used for fraud in the country
(v) verify the returns of telecommunications license holders
(vi) monitor mobile money transactions in Zimbabwe
The document with the full regulations is here.
There is another document that has very similar language, almost word for word. That document is the Electronic and Postal Communications (Telecommunications Traffic Monitoring System) from Tanzania. Page 4 and 5 of the Tanzania document illustrate the point clearly so it is not difficult to see how/where POTRAZ benchmarked. Now, if the situation in Tanzania is anything to go by and seeing the similarities in thought, language and deed, it is difficult to see how this will end well. From experience we can predict:
- A vendor will be selected to provide a system. The system will not be cheap. It will likely be a vendor who does not work with operators because of the need for “independence”. We know the usual suspect(s).
- There will be revenue share with the vendor and it will keep the international incoming rate high; the draft regulations already state there will be a set minimum rate. The difference between this rate and the local rates will generate arbitrage opportunities so SIM boxes will abound. More SIM boxes will be detected and this will be evidence of the “success” of the program.
- The success of the vendor will be difficult to measure but money will still be paid. How this will benefit consumers and taxpayers, in an economy that is already in the doldrums, will be unclear but the dollars will keep rolling out.
Operators (and other interested parties) in Zimbabwe have up to 30th July 2020 to give inputs and comments. I wish them good luck but I dare not hope.