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Telephone company launched in Harare

Staff Writer

A NEW telephone company, Afritell, has been formed to bring telephone services to rural and urban areas that have insufficient telephone lines. The new telephone company is a unique joint ventur

e between a private company, Africom, and two public sector companies, Powertel Communications and Transmedia.

The three companies will allow Afritell to utilise their combined existing infrastructure to rapidly establish a nation wide telephone service that will benefit hundreds of thousands of people who at present are unable to obtain a telephone line or have no telephone service in their area.

Afritell has applied to the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) for a licence to operate a fixed telephone network. It submitted its application recently.

If a licence is granted, as it expects it should be, given the new company’s asset base and capacity and the benefits that such a network would bring to rural areas in particular, Afritell expects to adapt the existing infrastructure for voice telephony and enable the first telephone call to be made by January 1 next year.

Powertel is a subsidiary of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa).

It already operates a data network. It has installed fibre optic cables all over the country, following chiefly in the path of Zesa’s electricity transmission lines.

Africom also has its own public data network, which utilises a combination of fibre optic cables and wireless broadband technology, as well as a satellite system. It has an extensive presence in Zimbabwe.

Transmedia is the national broadcasting signals carrier. It owns the infrastructure used by the country to transmit radio and television stations. Transmedia’s infrastructure has an extensive reach, particularly in the rural areas, as evidenced by the availability of radio services in those areas. The new telephone services, utilising in part Transmedia existing infrastructure, will have a similar reach as well.

The three companies intend to put the extra capacity that they currently have on their networks and initially their staff at the disposal of Afritell. This will enable Afritell to maximise the use of existing infrastructure, which has plenty of capacity in addition to the traffic it already carries, and use new generation technologies, allowing it to offer an extensive and affordable telephone service to rural areas and under-served urban areas.

In this way Afritell will be able to use extensive fibre, satellite and radio transmission to provide a high quality telephone service that can be rolled out rapidly and easily.

Afritell has an asset base of US$117 million and is currently valued at US$421 million.

Once licensed it believes it will be able to offer an affordable telephone service to more than 75% of those who are currently unable to obtain a telephone line.

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