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How Zimbabwe's USF plans to connect millions side-lined by telcos

By , Journalist
Zimbabwe , 10 Aug 2017

How Zimbabwe's USF plans to connect millions side-lined by telcos

As part of a build and transfer public private partnership project, Zimbabwe's Universal Services Fund (USF) has confirmed plans to build 250 new rural telecommunication sites.

This is in line with the organisation's mandate to help develop telecommunications infrastructure in poorly serviced areas that may also be less commercially viable.

The organisation has referenced a local network coverage report by the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) which stated that "354 000 households and a total population of two million people have no access to basic telecom services."

It has since invited interested companies to "design, supply, install and commission" sites, including both active and passive equipment.

The established sites will include shared towers, power systems, band units, controllers and radio units, and will be shared by Zimbabwe's three mobile operators: NetOne, Telecel Zimbabwe and Econet Wireless.

The USF "will be responsible for loan repayment to the full project sum and associated premiums" with loan repayment details to be negotiated with prospective bidders "based on their substantive offers" for the project.

Zimbabwe's cash-strapped government has previously impounded the USF and used the money to fund the digitalisation program for the state broadcaster.

Last year Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the implementation of the digitalisation migration project, initiated in February 2015, had faced funded challenges and that progress had stalled.

According to the Minister's 2016 mid-term budget statement, "The government will facilitate implementation of the project with funding drawn from the Universal Services Fund, to be reimbursed once the resources have been mobilised from the market."

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