ZIMBABWE requires US$123 million to invest in optic fibre to extend the backbone network to reach and serve every district in the country.
BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
This was contained in a consultation paper on Zimbabwe National Broadband Plan developed by the ICT, Postal and Courier Services ministry in partnership with the Postal and
Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz).
The southern African nation had tabled an ambitious plan to have 100% broadband coverage in all areas where people live, work, travel and learn with a high speed of not less than 1 Mbps by 2030.
The objective was to have an optic fibre cable length of about 12 000km, with a total of 10 152km having been laid to date.
The outstanding 1 848km will need a cash injection of US$123 million according the Zimbabwe National Broadband Plan.
“Out of the desired optic fibre cable length of about 12 000km, a total of 10 152km had been laid to date.
“The outstanding length is required to extend the backbone network to reach and serve every district around the country,” the paper read.
“An estimated US$123 million was required to cover the gap.
“Furthermore, there was a need for the deployment of complementary backhaul transmission systems to feed access nodes.
“To enhance network reliability there was a need for network redundancy for all the links,” the paper noted.
“The requirement for stable and uninterrupted power could never be overemphasised. A considerable parentage of the optical fibre cable was over-head, which brought about vulnerability to theft, vandalism and fire.
“There was a need to invest more in underground fibre and optical ground wire (also known as an OPGW) on power pylon,” the paper read.
The ministry said it was imperative to foster faster broadband deployment and address administrative barriers faced in the deployment of broadband infrastructure, where operators had to obtain permits from various authorities.
In order to achieve this, there was need to co-ordinate such approvals through the establishment of a one-stop-shop for permits for broadband deployment, the ministry prescribed.
“This also includes spectrum management policies as well as other strategies that reduce the cost of deployment such as Dig Once Policy, enforcement of infrastructure sharing and the adoption of open access interconnection.
“Such policies would need to be constantly reviewed in line with technological developments,” the paper stated.
The paper noted that 2G mobile technology had the widest geographical coverage of 75% and population coverage of 93,42%.
Population coverage in the rural areas was 74,67%; whereas the population in urban areas was 99,85% as of 31 December 2019.
Accordingly, 3G was considered to be the minimum mobile technology for the provision of broadband, while 4G provides enhanced broadband experience and higher speeds to end-users.
The uptake of 3G and 4G mobile broadband services has raised Zimbabwe’s performance indicators in recent years. As at December 31 2019, the total number of active broadband subscriptions were 8 267 268 giving a penetration rate of 56,7%.
According to the plan there is a need to protect broadband infrastructure against vandalism and theft.
This is in view of the fact that broadband should be available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
As such, the plan points out, that there is need to designate all broadband-related infrastructure as critical national infrastructure and ensure its protection at a national level, regardless of whether it is privately or publicly-owned.
The ministry noted that the ICT sector was also heavily taxed as the re-introduction of 25% duty on ICT gadgets and equipment in October 2014 had the effect of increasing the costs of ICT equipment and gadgets.
This is due to the fact that the equipment is imported into the country.
“This in-turn affected demand for telecommunication services, internet in particular, thereby lowering the growth of internet and data usage and revenues.
“The introduction of the 5% health levy in January 2017 added to the 5% excise duty on airtime that was introduced on October 1 2014 had the effect of increasing the cost of accessing telecommunications services at a time disposable incomes were dwindling,” revealed the paper.
“The ministry pointed out that erratic power supply led to high operating costs for local operators as they had to make use of alternative power sources such as generators and solar systems.
“The country requires 2 200 megawatts (MW) but is only producing about 1 300MW and has a deficit of about 900MW.
“This deficit needs to be addressed to make the country attractive for investment,” the ministry said.