6 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Potraz Set to Roll Out More Base Stations

THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe has completed a financial and technical assessment as it awaits the winning tender for construction of base stations under the second phase of the Universal Services Fund.

Tenders for the design and installation of the base stations opened in August last year.

The telecommunications regulator announced last year that it would construct 43 new base stations under the second phase of the USF in poorly serviced areas throughout the country.

At least US$24 million would be sunk into the project. Potraz deputy director-general Mr Alfred Marisa said the regulator was waiting for the tender to be awarded.

"The tender has not yet been approved. The tender was supposed to be closed in October but it was closed in November because bidders requested for more time," he said.

"On our part, we did the financial and technical assessment and at the moment we are just waiting for the tender to be awarded then we can proceed."

The USF is a pool of money into which the country's licensed telecommunications companies contribute 2 percent of their annual revenue.

The fund was established to finance the expansion of telecommunications services in outlying areas, which are under serviced. Potraz said it has collected US$41,3 million since the country adopted multiple- foreign currency system in 2009. The first phase of the USF project saw at least eight base stations being constructed in under-serviced areas.

Other purposes of the USF include assisting in the training of personnel in the provision of postal and telecommunication services and contributing towards research and development in the field of postal and telecommunication services.

In determining which areas benefit from the fund Potraz liaises with relevant Government ministries, Members of Parliament and other stakeholders in the postal and telecommunications sectors in identifying under-serviced areas in each province excluding Harare and Bulawayo for possible funding.

Targeted areas are then surveyed with the assistance of licensed operators before funds are disbursed for any project that is meant to bring universal access to the public living in unserviced areas.

Last year the country's biggest mobile services provider Econet wireless said it wanted the USF scrapped arguing that contributions were not being fully utilised.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti has said a number of parastatals were holding on to large sums of money that should be channelled into Government coffers, citing Potraz as one of them.

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