Zimbabwe: Regulator Potraz to fund the building of 54 Base Stations

Telecoms

THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe plans to install 54 mobile phone base stations in under-served and remote areas across the country over the next two years. This comes as Potraz expects teledensity to reach 100 percent from the current 90 percent as telecommunications become a basic need.

Potraz deputy director-general Alfred Marisa said in an interview last week the authority has already erected 11 sites for the stations.

"The first phase (of the) project had eight terminal sites and three repeater sites while the second phase is targeting a total of 43 sites. Our target is to reach all under-served areas in Zimbabwe. The areas targeted and prioritised are remote rural areas," he said.

Potraz has planned to roll out the project in two phases over two years, using resources from the Universal Services Fund. The first phase consisted of sites at Chidodo, Pfungwe, Neuso, Chilo, Chiodza, Malipati, Manama and Dhlamini. All the first phase sites are ready for radio frequency installations, with Chilo (Mahenye) and Malipati already on air. The other sites are awaiting the completion of microwave transmission installations, expected to be completed by the end of the month.

"Construction of towers at the 43 sites is likely to span over two years since the USF cannot fund all of them in one year, given that the USF is also funding other projects such as the Schools Connectivity project and some deserving postal projects," said Mr Marisa.

Investment in infrastructure by operators since dollarisation and a slash in sim card prices improved access to mobile phones. Prior to dollarisation access to telecommunications, especially mobile, was limited to only a privileged few and was seen as a status symbol.

"As at the end of September 2012, the teledensity figure was 89,8 percent (active sim cards and fixed lines without factoring in multiple line ownership). Given the current growth trends, we expect teledensity to reach 100 percent by next year as mobile services are extended to more under-served rural areas," Marisa said.

It is against this background that Potraz seeks to ensure universal access to telecommunications through the installation of infrastructure in areas where operators would ordinarily not invest. To address gaps created by such a scenario, the postal and telecoms regulator has strongly advocated the sharing of infrastructure.

"Operators are already sharing infrastructure. Sharing infrastructure has been hampered by old designs (especially towers) which were originally not designed to carry more than one operator and, in some cases, inadequate backhaul infrastructure," said Mr Marisa.