The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has made strides in the utilization of the Universal Service Fund (USF) and is expected to move a gear up in its plan to set up 250 shared base stations across the country.
This follows the commissioning of USF shared base station in Maitengwe, Plumtree three weeks ago, giving network operators such like Econet, NetOne and Telecel an opportunity to extent their network coverage into the area through riding on the Potraz USF shared network infrastructure.
The Potraz USF shared base station allows operators to configure microwave access links from the tower to their core networks without the need incur huge capital outlays associated by building single base stations.
The Maitengwe Potraz USF shared base stations now allows Econet, NetOne and Telecel to provide network connectivity around the Bulilimamangwe province where the local residents have four years been resorting to using nearby Botswana’s networks such as Mascom and Orange. That setup was triggered by the local mobile network operators’ reluctance to invest infrastructure in areas with poor average revenue per user.
As part of Potraz’s mandate to improve universal access to information, the regulator is now taking responsibility of constructing shared based stations in the underdeveloped communities through its Universal Service Fund.
Dr Gift Machengete, the Potraz Director General said the regulatory authority has been working tirelessly to create a level playing field in the sector to enhance connectivity and ease access of telecommunication services across the country.
He clarified that the Universal Service Fund is created from a pool of funds contributed by all operators licensed by Potraz. These include mobile network operators, Internet Access Providers and fixed telecom operators.
The USF has diverse purposes which include the development of telecommunication infrastructure across all corners of the country through a setup where operators are required to contribute part of their annual gross turnover to the fund. Potraz is also using the Universal Service Fund to build Community Information Centers across the country’s remote areas and also bankrolling the recently launched ICT Innovation Fund.