Zimbabwe’s telecoms get US $5 million aid

mugabe_2.jpgThe Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe will pay US $5 million to local telecoms companies for expansion projects under the Universal Services Fund, according to Zimbabwean publication The Herald.

Operators will contribute two percent of their gross revenue towards expansion in underdeveloped, remote and rural areas in the country. The USF funds will be distributed accordingly to plans discussed with licensed operators Econet Wirelesss, Telecel and Net-One.

“We have already submitted our plans, the plans have already been approved by the ministry and we will be utilizing these funds”, said Douglas Mboweni, CEO of Econet Wireless, the country’s biggest mobile operator by subscriber base.

Econet will be most likely developing a fibre network around major cities, in partnership with Chinese company, Huawei Technologies. Almost 200km of fibre is expected to be installed by March 2010 in Harare alone, ahead of FIFA World Cup, to speed data and Internet services, including 3G.

The company is working on new switching centres commissioned by Chinese supplier ZTE, added Mboweni. It was reported that the other operators, Telecel and Net-One, have expansion plans to increase connectivity speed and subscriber base as tourists and investors are preferring countries with high connectivity rates, both in communication and transport.

Zimbabwe currently has a penetration rate of 30% for Internet services, the third lowest in SADC region. Finance Minister Tendai Biti stood up for a change by allocating US$5 million through the Vote of Credit aimed at establishing a fibre optic link between Harare and Mutare and Harare to Beitbridge following the 2010 budget discussed for improving technology and Internet access in the country.