Zim tables ambitious 100% broadband plan

FIDELITY MHLANGA

ZIMBABWE has tabled an ambitious plan to have 100% high speed broadband coverage in all areas where people live, work, travel and learn.

This plan is contained in a consultative paper, the Zimbabwe National Broadband Plan, which has been developed by the Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services in partnership with the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz).

The paper is currently undergoing a consultative process.

According to the plan, focus will be on rolling out broadband infrastructure in all government educational and health institutions, road and rail networks, local authorities and communities.

Government is also planning to improve broadband speeds through effective management of spectrum resources.

The paper states that the merger between Potraz and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) must be accelerated, with a new legislation being introduced to replace the Postal and Telecommunication Act and the Broadcasting Act.

“Broadband development requires substantial investment in the construction and modernisation of both infrastructure and systems,” it reads.

“This calls for the creation of an enabling environment that attracts efficient investment, fosters innovation and enhances competition in broadband infrastructure and services. Hence, a modernised, technology and service neutral regulatory and licensing framework is a pre-requisite.”

To foster faster broadband deployment, the ministry submits in the plan that it is imperative to address administrative barriers faced in the deployment of broadband infrastructure where operators have to obtain permits from various authorities.

It calls for the establishment of a one-stop shop for permits for broadband deployment.

This also includes spectrum management policies and other strategies that reduce the costs like a “Dig Once Policy”.

The paper says the bulk of the internet comes through Beitbridge Border Post.

It says there is need to use other border posts like Forbes, Nyamapanda, Chirundu, Kariba and Victoria Falls.

“In addition there is need for operators to access undersea cables from multiple docking stations in South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and Namibia. Of late, availability of commercial power in the country has been erratic. There is need to ensure a stable supply of uninterrupted power for all the routes to guarantee reliability and resilience,” the paper reads.

It notes that Zimbabwe has no private carrier-neutral datac entre and disaster recovery site for the data centre, which means there is a very high risk of losing data in the event of an unforeseen disaster.

The purpose of the consultation paper is to solicit views of stakeholders on policies and regulations that need to be developed or improved to enable Zimbabwe achieve universal broadband access at affordable prices.

Stakeholders will be submitting their views in the coming weeks before it goes to the next stage.

The paper also says 2G mobile technology has the widest geographical coverage of 75% and a population coverage of 93,42%.

On 3G which is the minimum mobile technology required for accessing broadband services, the document says population coverage was 83,9% as at December 31, 2019, while geographic coverage was 70,5%.

Plans for continuous rollout have been curtailed by the prevailing economic challenges, it says.

It points out that 4G technology is sparsely deployed in major cities and strategic economic centres.

As at December 31, 2019, its geographical coverage was 4,07%, while the population coverage was 34,97%.

“In order to provide services to the end users on a fixed network, there is need for some civil works to be done before the customer is connected. These civil works come at a high cost to both the client and the operator.

“The overall cost of deploying network infrastructure is high in rural and remote areas due to the unavailability of support infrastructure in the form of commercial electricity, serviceable roads and bridges,” the paper states.

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