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yet to come up with VoIP regulations
Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe)
March 25, 2007
THE Postal and Telecommunications
Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has failed to come up
with a clear policy framework to regulate the Voice over Internet
Protocol (VoIP), leading to it still holding on to the Internet
Access Provider (IAP) Class A licence, which allows the licensee
to provide VoIP.
This development has
led to an outcry from players in the sector who now accuse Potraz
of dragging its feet over the matter.
The delay by Potraz has
irked players, some of whom have been waiting for as long as four
years for Potraz's IAP Class A licence, which allows them
to legally provide VoIP services in the country.
The three IAPs —
Telecontract, TelOne and Ecoweb — hold the IAP Class B licence,
which is an internet licence that allows them to only transmit data
using the internet and not voice.
Although there is a provision
for licensing of IAP Class A in the statutes, this has not been
VoIP is a technology
that allows one to make telephone calls using a broadband internet
connection instead of the regular (or analogue) phone line which
uses traditional circuit-committed protocols of the public switched
telephone network (PSTN).
Potraz was supposed to
have prepared and gazetted regulations on VoIP by October last year.
An official from Potraz
confirmed this development to The Sunday Mail Business, adding that
the regulatory body was yet to come up with the policy framework.
"We are aware that
we were supposed to have come up with this policy framework by the
end of last year, but to date nothing much has been done.
"We are working
on it, but there are fears that it will soon be a year since Potraz
embarked on coming up with a policy to regulate VoIP and we are
fully aware that players are now also getting very impatient over
the matter," explained the Potraz official.
Mr Shadreck Nkala, chief
executive of Telecontract, one of the three licensed IAPs in the
country, said: "We have been waiting for four years for a licence.
When we applied for the IAP Class A licence that would enable us
to provide VoIP, we were granted the Class B licence.
"We have been eagerly
awaiting Potraz to gazette regulations that will govern VoIP, but
to date nothing has come up.
"There is confusion
at the moment over the VoIP regulations. Potraz recently told us
that they had made some recommendations that were submitted to Government
on VoIP. However, when we called the ministry following up on the
matter, the ministry professed ignorance over the matter, saying
'it was not even aware of any such recommendations from Potraz'.
"We have shown Potraz,
on the internet, some local institutions that are presently using
VoIP clandestinely and they are not being accountable to anyone."
He added: "Presently,
South Africa has a very large-scale VoIP infrastructure that carries
both voice and data traffic into Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa
at our disadvantage, just because Potraz has not gazetted the regulations
and awarded the licence."
Class A licence is still vacant and Potraz is yet to determine how
many players will be licensed to hold the licence.
Last year Potraz held
consultations with stakeholders over VoIP.
Once Potraz awards the
IAP Class A licence, the public switched telephone network (PSTN)
currently being used by TelOne is highly likely to gradually fall
away, as VoIP technology gains momentum in the country.
A major advantage of
VoIP and internet telephony is that it avoids tariffs charged by
TelOne, which charges according to distance and time called.
Some services using VoIP
may also allow you to call other people using the same service,
but others may allow you to call anyone who has a telephone number
— including local, long-distance, mobile and international
VoIP converts the voice
signal from your telephone into a digital signal that travels over
A Potraz official
last year told this paper that they were aware that there are some
companies that were "illegally" using VoIP for their day-to-day
internal communications, adding that there was no way they could
take action against them until they (Potraz) came up with a clear
policy framework on VoIP.
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