Harare – The Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe says about two million Zimbabweans have no access to telecommunications services while the Universal Services Fund (USF) said it will hedge funds contributed by mobile firms to build 250 new sites in poorly serviced areas.
The government is haggling with leading telecom operator, Econet Wireless over infrastructure sharing which Econet argues should be implemented on a one on one basis. Telecom experts said on Thursday that the USF has not been utilising funds for infrastructure development.
Mobile companies contribute about 1.5% of their gross annual turnover to the USF, but Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said last year the government had taken over funds under the USF and used them for the broadcasting digital migration project.
On Thursday, the USF said it was inviting companies to help it build 250 sites in poorly developed rural areas.
Zimbabwe has a population of about 13 million and registered mobile users for all operators in the country have surpassed 12 million although the active users numbers are said to be below 10 million, according to industry reports
“The project is planned to be implemented as a Build and Transfer Public Private Partnership Project. USF will be responsible for loan repayment to the full project sum and associated premiums,” it said.
A network coverage study by the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe in 2016 established that 354 000 households and a “total population of two million people, have no access to basic telecommunications services”.
Additionally, said USF, a preliminary network planning exercise established that an estimated 250 new rural sites “would be required to achieve full population coverage” in terms of telecommunications.
As a result of this, the government of Zimbabwe is seeking to award tenders to companies for the design, supply, installation and commissioning of a Multi Radio Access Network project comprising both passive and active telecom network equipment.
The sites built under this arrangement will be shared by the three operators (Telecel Zimbabwe, Econet Wireless and NetOne). They will “initially offer 2G and 3G services” and the sites will have towers, power systems, antennaes, remote radio units and backhauls among other equipment.