Zimbabwe minister wins China loan for national broadband

The Zimbabwe government is stepping up its pressure on operators to work together to build a national backbone network, and has negotiated a loan from China to expand fibre infrastructure.

Telecoms minister Supa Mandiwanzira has announced that China’s Exim Bank will loan state-controlled operator TelOne $98 million to deploy fibre.

“Government is already the biggest investor in fibre infrastructure in this country,” said Mandiwanzira. With state-controlled businesses Powertel, TelOne and NetOne, “we are one of the biggest investors as government”, he said.

Zimbabwe is also saying that is has bought 60% of VimpelCom’s Telecel, though lack of funds means it has still not paid for the shares so ownership remains with the Amsterdam-based group.

“And we’d like to make these facilities available to the private sector so that the value added services sit on this infrastructure.” Mandiwanzira is promoting the idea of mobile virtual network operators to site on government-owned infrastructure. “You don’t have to have base stations, you don’t have to have towers, you don’t have to have that kind of infrastructure,” said the minister.

“That’s what we want to promote. Government must be involved in putting up the infrastructure, the backbone infrastructure, and must allow private sector to flourish by using that infrastructure.”

One Zimbabwe-based operator – Econet Wireless, which owns international fibre operator Liquid Telecom – last year refused to take part in nationally-owned shared infrastructure.

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