MTN goes green in Zambia


Zambia's second-largest mobile telecoms service provider, MTN Zambia, has launched its first solar green site in the country to provide efficient telecommunications services to people living in rural areas.

The site will cover a distance of 35 kilometres to the surrounding community in the Chisamba areas in the northern part of the country. Zambia, like many other countries in Africa, is facing erratic electric power supply due to low generating capacity, despite high power demand.

MTN chief marketing officer Ernst Fonternel said last week that the site is an initiative particularly meant for rural areas. The initiative will gradually reduce the dependency on this erratic electric power supply and diesel back-up power, which comes at a huge financial cost to the company, he said. “That is why we saw the need to introduce solar sites in order to reduce the high cost of maintenance.”

MTN has become the first mobile operator in Zambia to launch solar green sites for mobile telecommunications, as the company continues pushing for rural connectivity. Although the Zambian government has embarked on a rural electrification project aimed at connecting most rural areas to the national grid, the country is faced with a grid power shortage, with constant power outages negatively affecting most businesses.

MTN Zambia is putting up over 600 solar sites countrywide in 2012, because it feels it is important to address the amount of energy used to power the mobile network, according to Fonternel.

But the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Works, Supply, Communications and Transport, Kapembwa Simbao, said MTN must ensure all its solar sites are well maintained to avoid inconsistent power supply that may disturb communication, adding that the initiative will provide valuable solutions to the erratic power supply.

Cyprian Chitundo, MD for the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (Zesco), a government-run power utility company, said erratic power supply will only come to an end next year, as the company is undertaking a number projects to improve power generation and supply. India's Tata Communication is one of the companies that has partnered with Zesco to develop hydro power stations in Itezhi Tezhi, in order to increase power generation by the end of 2014.