6 November 2010

Zimbabwe: Fibre-Optic Roll Out Near Completion

The fibre-optic cable roll out programme, expected to increase connectivity and improve telecommunication efficiency countrywide, will be complete before the end of the year, a senior government official said last week.

The government made a US$6,2 million budgetary allocation for the project, which started early this year. Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Nelson Chamisa said the roll out programme should be finished by end of this year.

"We initially anticipated that the cable roll out would be complete by the end of November but it should be complete by the end of this year," said Chamisa.

The minister also explained that once completed, the project would have an operational capacity of 10 gigabytes per second which would take up to five decades to exhaust in terms of demand.

"The fibre-optic cable is currently 6% complete in the laying of cables while 50% through in backfilling," said Chamisa.

The minister pointed out that countries such as Kenya had witnessed a decrease in ICT service costs and related prices going down by about 50% upon using fibre-optic cables rather than satellite transmission.

He said despite being landlocked, Zimbabwe is positioned to cut on costs as it has created synergies with neighboring states such as Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana through the signing of bilateral agreements.

The government is expanding the fibre-optic cable programme in key cities and towns of the country while invitations are open to the private sector to implement a similar project in rural areas.

The removal of duty on ICT products being imported into the country has witnessed a phenomenal increase in investment in the sector as more base stations have been set up in rural areas.

The latest areas now connected onto the communications grid include remote areas of Mberengwa, Chipinge, Nyazura and several remote districts in Matabeleland North and South.

It is envisaged that by 2014, Zimbabwe will have ubiquitous connectivity, low cost access to data and good quality ICT services.

Chamisa also explained that the corporate sector will soon have to embrace the e-governance framework once the completed and approved ICT Bill is promulgated into law.

The ICT bill incorporates aspects such as enforcement of cyber security, digital signatures for purposes of internet business transactions as well as convergence of ICTs.

Zimbabwe faces a major challenge in the form of a very high ICT price basket as compared to other countries within the SADC region.

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