HARARE – Government is looking at setting up over 600 telecommunications towers across the country, through a $250 million fund from the Universal Services Fund (USF), a Cabinet minister has said.
Information Communication Technology (ICT) minister, Supa Mandiwanzira, on Monday said the project was being conducted by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) to ensure cell phone services are available in remote areas through infrastructure sharing.
“What Potraz is doing, I’m sure they will tell you, is that out of the funds coming out of USF there is a very huge effort right now to leverage on those funds, secure 15 to 20-year funding to put up 600 plus towers across the country, particularly in areas where there is no reception,” said Mandiwanzira while presenting evidence before the ICT parliamentary portfolio committee.
“There is consideration for a $250 million fund which will allow the regulator through USF to put up towers that will be shared by those operators in those areas we believe that investment will help in reducing costs.”
The USF is a resource pool meant for infrastructure development in which all registered telecommunications companies contribute at least 1,5 percent of their gross revenue.
Mandiwanzira told the Nelson Chamisa-led committee that the development was also aimed at making services affordable.
This comes as Potraz chairman, Ozias Bvute, last year told the businessdaily that the infrastructure to be constructed would be open to all local operators in the telecommunications sector.
“…then thereof each operator will be able to access that tower similar to the model that we were talking about under infrastructure sharing whereby they will rent space from Potraz for purposes of ensuring that in areas where they find it difficult to commercially invest in we do not leave those communities disadvantaged,” he said.
The Potraz boss pointed out that the project was meant to encourage local companies to invest in remote areas as they are as profitable as urban areas.
“It is a substantial investment; we are at the preliminary planning stages . . . There is definitely a timeline, it is our intended desire that by the first quarter of 2017 we issue a tender. Right now we are mapping the areas that we would like to target.
“We are nearly at the completion stage, after this we will then begin the process of preparing the tender documents that will allow for the various players to tender for this work,” Bvute said then, adding the project was expected to have begun by end of 2017.
Mandiwanzira has been trying to get players to share infrastructure under a framework set to compel both public and private companies in telecommunications to share hardware.