At the dawn of the internet era in Zimbabwe, we had one IAP, Telone formally PTC. They had a big satellite dish in Mazowe which in effect was the only gateway for Zimbabwe till Telco came along. Life for ISPs was heaven because they had the most of the infrastructure deployed for them. In essence, an ISP could be instantly available throughout the country without spending much on access routers and links, just riding on the PTC network.
PTC signed up franchises that gave birth to most ISPs that used to sell the 041 service till they slowly deployed they own POPs but still heavily dependent on PTC network. As pressure built on POTRAZ to release more licenses for IAP, Telco got one (IAP class B) and together with PTC, they become the only two access providers. Dial up was the in thing which quickly got over subscribed and you had to retry several times to connect. For ISPs like myself, we had to choose to get bandwidth from either Telone or Telco and a VSAT, by then, would set you off by anything around $7 000.
The two providers did a terrible job at meeting demand once ZOL and Mweb engines started roaring and soon more licenses were granted to guys like Africom with the biggest ISPs crying fowl for being refused license.
Its is important to note that ISPs represented the IAPs to the market and PTC by then had proper wholesale pricing structures which assured the survival of ISPs who made a handsome killing after they learnt the tricks of contending less bandwidth to more people through their own POPs.
As the internet industry dynamics changed, again it became necessary for POTRAZ to review its licensing, succumbing to pressure to allow VOIP, 13 IAPs were approved with most upgraded to class A giving them 'voice' previously reserved for Telone only.
This brought an era of very fast network deployment with operators fully aware that delay meant death as 12000people divided by 13operators just did not make economic sense so everyone wanted to capitalize on being first to market. We all know of the ill prepared launches that followed with many operators, including those deploying wi-fi (lol), claiming 4G just to get the attention of the limited customers.
Now do notice that the IAP was going straight to the market and bypassing the traditional ISP because this was now an issue of survival which could not be left in the hands of a third party. Also, for IAPs to remain competitive price wise, they had to cut the middle man- ISPs. With no control on infrastructure or bandwidth ISPs were left to compete on the market with the same providers and soon ISP prices began to look exorbitant. This caused a lot of discomfort in the ISP/IAP relationship which later degenerated to a war of words with accusations of stealing bandwidth, customers and so forth being thrown all over.
By 2012, we saw the market start to correct economic number of IAPs required as many of them started showing signs of severe sickness. Most ISPs were left to decide whether to close shop, sell or crawl to death. Wise ones acted decisively while others kept waiting on a miracle and some are were just too ignorant.
The new licensing regime is the final death nail for the traditional ISP operating with no license and the beginning of problems for smaller IAPs with no expansion finance. Pachafiwa. The question is how big is the Zimbabwean market and how much does an operator need to deploy throughout the country and what is his assured ROI? If you can do the maths, you will see what I see.