‘Telecomms infrastructure investments improve’

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By Anna Chibamu

INFRASTRUCTURE Investments in the fixed and mobile companies have greatly improved though challenges still persist, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) has said.

However, Potraz director general Gift Machengete told the Parliamentary Committee on Information, Communication Technology (ICT) while giving oral evidence Monday that foreign currency shortages continue to wreak havoc with plans for more investment.

Machengete revealed that total investment in the mobile and fixed network operators had gone down by at least 19.2% from RTGS$197 million in 2017 to $159 million in 2018.

“There have been some improvements in infrastructure investments by companies though challenges persist.

“TelOne has recorded a decline in investments from $57 million in 2017 down to $22 million in 2018, a decline of 61.2%. The mobile network operators invested $100 million to $59 million in 2018, a 41 percent decline,” said Machengete.

He added: “An in-app purchase (IAP) run by the mobile companies, investment improved greatly from $38.8 million from 2017 to $77.5 million, an increase of 99.5%.”

Machengete however explained that the investments have come mainly from mobile network telecommunication companies adding that base stations range from US$150 000 to US$200 000 to set up depending on type.

While there has been hesitation from telecommunication companies to share, mobile and fixed operators are responding well to government’s per share call.

“Operators are responding to government’s calls to share the situation is now different from what it was before. Telecel and Econet are sharing towers at over 121 sites on swap arrangements,” he said.

According to Machengete the total number of base stations across the country increased by 5.1% in base stations from 8378 in 2017 to 8 805 base stations in the country as at 31 December 2018.

“Econet and Telecel are sharing 121 sights and this infrastructure sharing has gone beyond the sector.

“We had an increase in growth on our base stations as per technology of 139: 2G base stations in 2018 and 213: 3G base stations and 75 long term revolution (LTE) in 2018. All mobile operators increased their base stations.

“Econet had a net addition of 65 base stations and Telecel had eight more and NetOne added two bringing the total to 75 more base stations. The companies increased optic fibre bandwidth,” said Machengete.

Internet service providers according to the Potraz head had also increased investment mainly in optic fibre.

“They have increased they band-with capacities as well as their national fibre backbone. The international incoming internet band-with increased by 11% to reach 113-405MB per second,” Machengete told Parliament.