Binga — The State owned mobile network operator NetOne has appealed to government to electrify rural communities saying it was costly to operate network boosters on diesel which is also only accessible in the often hard to get foreign currency.
NetOne built a new base station which was commissioned by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga Saturday at Nachulwe in Binga, bringing the mobile operator's base stations to 61 in Matabeleland North province.
The operator now has 95% communication network availability in Matabeleland North.
While the booster is expected to enhance network connectivity and bridge the digital divide by connecting the marginalised Binga district, the NetOne management is concerned about the high cost of running the base stations.
NetOne acting chief executive Raphael Mushanawani appealed to VP Chiwenga to facilitate that mobile operators access fuel using local currency.
This comes as most fuel service stations sell the commodity in foreign currency.
"We are kindly requesting through your office for us to access more foreign currency for acquiring technologies and services that are not locally available," said Mushanawani.
"Also fuel is one of our biggest cost in the running of the network and we are, therefore, kindly seeking assistance for more fuel to be availed to network operators in local currency. Availability of a constant supply of electricity to such marginalised areas will greatly enhance our ability to keep our sites running and the community connected at all times."
Zimbabwean mobile telecoms providers charge for their services mostly in local currency.
Mushanawani added that despite the challenges faced, NetOne was confident of achieving the government's Vision 2030, for Zimbabwe to be an upper middle class economy by that year.
The base station is provisioned to provide 2G and 3G services hence providing voice and data access to the marginalised Binga community.
It will service Siansundu area covering Siansundu business centre, Siansundu primary and secondary schools, clinic, Saba business centre, Buniswa primary school, Siachilaba primary and secondary schools and shopping centre.
These areas will receive NetOne network and access to internet and mobile financial services One Money which have not been available all along.
VP Chiwenga, who was the guest of honour, said network connectivity will support devolution programmes which include online platforms like e-learning, e-passport and e-licensing.
He also handed over computers and stationery to the local schools.
"As government, we urge other players to do the same until we achieve all round connectivity across country. Binga has potential for tourism growth and promoting tourism is one of the core aspects of achieving vision 2030," said VP Chiwenga.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister Richard Moyo encouraged mobile network operators to share boosters to enhance widespread connectivity, as only four out of 61 are shared across the province.
The Binga community was excited that it was now part of the global village and can now communicate seamlessly with friends and relatives not only in Zimbabwe but beyond borders, at a time when the district has challenges with network and broadcasting transmission.