The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe will build 250 base stations under a multi-operator radio network extension project with capacity for 2 million users.
Potraz will engage contractors to design, supply, install and commission the multi operator radio access network (MORAN) comprising both passive infrastructure and active equipment.
The MORAN will be shared by three operators who will initially offer 2G and 3G services. The authority plans to implement the project as a build and transfer public private partnership.
The project seeks to cover existing gaps after a network coverage study conducted by Potraz in 2016 established that 314 wards, hosting 354 000 households and a total population of 2 million people, had no access to basic telecommunication services.
"It is against this background that the Universal Services Fund has decided to roll-out the MORAN Project to provide telecommunication services to people living in under-served areas," Potraz said.
Furthermore, a preliminary network planning exercise for coverage extension established that about 250 new rural sites were required, to achieve full population coverage.
Potraz intends to use financial resources from the Universal Services Fund to construct the sites, and provide the requisite active equipment including microwave backhaul.
The Universal Services Fund is a pool of financial contributions made by all telecoms operators in Zimbabwe, which is collected and managed by the telecoms regulator, Potraz.
Government increased the USF levy to 1,5 percent from 0,5 percent last year, as part of efforts to increased resources available to support its investment in telecoms infrastructure.
Potraz has made calls for contractors to with the capacity to fund at least (10) sites to make expressions of interest for the provision of passive telecoms infrastructure.
For the active equipment, suppliers should have the capacity to fund at least 20 base stations. Potraz recently invited suppliers to make proposals for either the passive component or the active component of the MORAN or submit proposals for both sets of the equipment.
The MORAN will provide telecoms service coverage to remote and under-served areas where operators, including Econet, NetOne and Telecel have deliberately left out in their expansion plans, mainly because it does not make compelling business case to invest.
While statistics show that Zimbabwe's mobile penetration rate has exceeded the 100 percent mark, a number of outlying areas remain without or with limited network coverage.
Further, reluctance by mobile phone operators to share telecoms infrastructure has resulted in the companies duplicating investment where one would have already invested.