The Zambian Government says Celtel will not be allowed to use Zambia Telecommunications Limited (Zamtel’s) infrastructure to extend mobile services to any part of the country.Communication and Transport Minister Bates Namuyamba said in Parliament last week that it was not possible for Zamtel to share its facilities with a competitor when it was also considering introducing the same service in the area.He was answering supplementary questions from members of Parliament who during question-and-answer session quizzed Government on why Celtel which was due to launch cellular service in Chipata during the N’cwala ceremony had not done so.

Mr Namuyamba accused Celtel of rushing to announce the new service in Eastern Province when it had not even signed any agreement with Zamtel over the infrastructure. He said investors should set up their own infrastructure instead of using existing facilities. Chipata MP Matthew Mwale (FDD) said Chipata residents had been inconvenienced because they spent money to purchase handsets and sim cards in anticipation of the Celtel mobile service.

Chipangali MP Lucas Phiri (UNIP) felt the issue was political as Celtel was permitted to use existing facilities in Southern Province but Mr Namuyamba said the arrangement was with Zesco not Zamtel. Mbabala MP Emmanuel Hachipuka (UPND) said the measure was odd as Zamtel was failing to utilise its full capacity. Earlier Communications Deputy Minister Alex Chama said Government required $12.4 billion to extend telephone services to rural areas countrywide. He said the programme had stalled because of the colossal amount of money involved and lack of infrastructure. He said K4.53 billion had however been allocated under the transitional national development plan to extend services to seven provinces.

Sinjembela MP Humphrey Pumulo (UPND) had asked if there were plans to extend services to Shangombo but Mr Chama said it was still pending. Shangombo alone required $902,000.

The Times of Zambia