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Zambia embarks on building 169 rural telecom towers

By , ITWeb’s Zambian correspondent.
Zambia , 11 Feb 2014

Zambia embarks on building 169 rural telecom towers

The Zambian government plans to spend $24 million in constructing 169 telecom towers across the country to boost cellphone coverage for underserved rural populations.

The project is being implemented by the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA), the country’s telecom sector regulator through government funding.

According to Zambian President Michael Sata, the project is expected to be completed by the end of this year and could result in most rural parts of the country being connected to mobile phone networks.

He said the towers are expected to bring benefits of mobile phone services such as mobile money to more than a 200,000 rural population currently not connected to telecommunication services at all.

The country’s three mobile operators -- MTN, Airtel and Zamtel -- are all expected to be connected to the towers.

The operators are also set to pay fees to ZICTA for the usage of the towers.

Mobile operators in the country; though, have been slow to connect their networks to rural areas because of reliance on expensive diesel generators. Most rural areas are not connected to national grid power in Zambia.

The Zambian government therefore believes the countrywide installation of the towers may help reduce the cost of installations that mobile operators incur when installing their own towers and hence bring down call and internet costs in the country.

“This project is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year at a cost of $24 million. The tower project will bring benefits of mobile phone services riding on it such as mobile money to more 200,000 citizens amongst the rural population,” Sata said.

Zambia has more than 5 million people who are reportedly not subscribed to mobile communication services and most of them live in isolated rural areas, according to a 2012 study by Wireless Intelligence.

Earlier, the Minister of Communications and Transport Yamfwa Mukanga said the mobile tower installation will start in April this year and that all the tenders have been floated and that preferred bidders have already been awarded the contracts.

Meanwhile, Sata has said that by the end of 2014, the on-going optic fibre network expansion is expected to cover a distance of 8,000 km from the current distance of 7,385 km. He said the project is planned to contribute significantly to the Zambian government’s goal of narrowing the digital divide between urban and rural areas and thus stimulate socio-economic growth in the country.

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