Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
THE Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has said mobile network operators are engaging local authorities to acquire land in order to set up 13 telecommunication tower sites around the country, as well as expand and optimise the mobile network by setting up 1187 sites for the deployment of 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G services.
The initiative, which is being undertaken in conjunction with mobile network operators will bridge the digital divide and extend Zimbabwe’s broadband infrastructure.
Potraz will provide financing of the passive infrastructure and shared transmission equipment through the Universal Services Fund (USF).
Responding to questions from Sunday News, Potraz director general Dr Gift Machengete said mobile network operators were engaging local authorities to acquire land for setting up 13 additional telecommunication tower sites, as well as expand and optimise the mobile network around the country.
“The setting up of Base Station Towers under the Universal Service Fund (USF) is progressing well at various sites.
The various sites have been identified after carrying out the necessary surveys and currently operators are engaging with relevant local authorities to acquire the land.
“The procurement of services and materials is also in progress and operators will re-deploy collocated base stations to USF sites. This will ultimately reduce the duplication of towers and enable service provision to new areas,” said Dr Machengete.
He also noted that the identified sites were Nyatsato and Cranham in Mashonaland Central, Chikwarakwara and Mapholisa in Matabeleland South, Mola and Msampakaruma in Mashonaland West and Nyamhara in Midlands.
Dr Machengete added: “The construction of Mapholisa in Matabeleland South, Cranham in Mashonaland Central and Msampakaruma in Mashonaland West will be done by the operators and funded by the USF.”
With the mobile data usage having increased by 36,5 percent and internet, data penetration up 0,4 percent in 2020, he said for 2021 the use of digital technologies will be even more accelerated as the global economy recovers from the impact of Covid-19.
“Internet and data usage is expected to soar on the back of increased number of users as well as the growing adoption of digital solutions centered on e-learning, e-health, telecommuting etc. Broadband access and affordability will be key determinants of this outcome.
Hence the need to facilitate the upscaling of broadband roll out and for fiscal authorities to address the issue of low disposable incomes to enhance service affordability,” added Dr Machengete.
He also noted that the general economic environment will continue to impact on consumption of services, service delivery as well investment in the sector. In terms of the digital revolution, Dr Machengete said that it was sweeping across all regions of the world, including Africa and it was not just about communication, but also about harnessing technological innovation, skills as well access to and use of digital services. He highlighted that Zimbabwe was making strides to ensure that the country partakes and benefits from the digital revolution.
“In terms of digital innovation, Zimbabwe was number 18 in Africa and 120 globally according to the 2020 Global Innovation Index. This was an improvement from a regional ranking of 20 and a global ranking of 122 recorded in 2019. According to the last ICT Development Index (IDI) by ITU in 2017, Zimbabwe had a global ranking of 136 out of 164 countries and a regional (Africa) ranking of 15 out of 52 countries,” he said.
Meanwhile, in terms of cyber criminals hacking economic institutions, websites and power infrastructures, in order to steal or extort money or advance an ideological agenda, Dr Machengete said it was due to proliferation of digital services.
“Indeed, there has been an increase in cybercrime in the country due to proliferation of digital services. We are happy that the Cybersecurity Bill is now at the parliamentary stage and it is our hope that it will be enacted soon.
As Potraz, we are complementing this through engaging consumers through national consumer education and awareness campaigns wherein we discuss various topical cyber security issues and the vulnerabilities they are exposed to and how to detect such,” he said.
He added that they were also working with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to develop and implement frameworks for digital financial services security and consumer competencies for digital financial services with assistance from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).