Zimbabwe Experiences Internet Downtime

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – PART of Zimbabwe’s internet bandwidth experienced downtime Thursday due to disruptions to Mozambique’s telecommunications services in Chimoio, according to sources.

Zimbabwe links to the 13,700-kilometre South East Asia Commonwealth (Seacom) submarine fibre-optic cable system running along the coast of Africa via Mozambique’s parastatal telecommunications company, Telecommunicacoes de Mozambique (TDM).

All Internet Access Providers (IAPs) utilising the Mozambique link were affected resulting in slow to no internet connection for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and their clients.

“Due to some disruptions to equipment in Mozambique, I can confirm that a good portion of our internet capacity has been negatively affected. However, we maintain other tributaries of internet connectivity to ensure that our clients  stay online,” said an official with a local Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Sue Bolt, a spokespersom for Dandemutande, one of Zimbabwe’s biggest IAPs confirmed that they had been informed of  Telecomunicações de Moçambique equipment failure in Chimoio.

“It is true that the internet services have been slow, and the last we heard was that there has been equipment failure in Mozambique. But we have been using back satelitte link-ups,” said Bolt. Efforts to get a comment from Seacom offices in Mozambique and South Africa were fruitless but a statement on the company’s website dated October 20, 2011 read:

“SEACOM has completed the restoration process for all of our customers on alternative routes. In the meantime, the repair vessel is now in transit to the repair ground in the Mediterranean. The vessel has received the master permit for this repair;  operational permits are being finalized and should be received prior to arrival on the repair ground. At this time repair completion is expected late October, however we’d note that the usual exogenous factors associated with sub-sea repairs, including weather and currents, may further impact the repair. SEACOM continues to monitor the situation closely and will update customers regularly on progress.”

With Zimbabwe gaining increasing access to the internet via the undersea cable system and redefining the way people communicate and do business, any disruption to services is immensely felt among businesses and the general public, especially in urban areas.

Zimbabwe Operators to Share Rural Network Infrastructure

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – IN a development that will potentially boost Zimbabwe’s rural mobile telephony, the telecommunications regulatory authority, Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, recently announced that it is installing shared telecommunications infrastructure in the country’s rural areas.

Among the players in the telecommunications sector, infrastructure is highly regarded as a competitive advantage hence the reluctance to open up platforms.

“The duplication of infrastructure is reversing the aggressive expansion mood that investors are approaching the telecommunications sector with,” said Taonaziso Chowa, an investment analyst with Old Mutual Zimbabwe’s investment research division.

The reluctance of Zimbabwe’s mobile operators to share infrastructure has been widely reported as a shortcoming which has resulted in the duplication of infrastructure such as towers for base stations, and missing the opportunity to channel resources into other areas. It has been cited as one of the limiting factors of Zimbabwe’s telecommunications industry’s growth potential.

Moreover, mobile telecommunication operators have traditionally targeted urban areas, but it is the demand from rural and low-income areas that is likely to exceed all expectations. As urban markets become saturated, the next generation of mobile phone users will increasingly be rural based. Rural areas, where a majority of Zimbabweans live, are particularly in need of better mobile and broadband service.

According to POTRAZ, the programme is expected to improve coverage of mobile phone networks through the installation of towers, power back-ups and equipment rooms. Installation of the infrastructure will be financed by a total of US$20 million dollars from the Universal Service Fund (USF).

According to the state owned weekly newspaper, Sunday Mail, the USF was established under Section 10 of the Postal and Telecommunications Act. Essentially, licensed telephone operators and other ICT providers contribute 2 percent of their gross income to the USF which is used to finance provision of services in remote areas.

“We are already installing the passive infrastructure in one district in all the eight provinces and work should be completed before year end,” the Sunday Mail quoted Engineer Charles Sibanda, POTRAZ director.

Sibanda added that the three mobile phone operators in the country and ICT service providers would share the infrastructure to install transmitters for providing their services.

According to previous media reports, POTRAZ is planning to prohibit the number of towers that each operator can erect in a given area.

“This infrastructural development will certainly ensure that our rural areas that are often ignore by the big telecommunications players in the country will now be better connected. Its very important for the future development of our country, and is a welcome development,” said Bethel Goka, an IT specialist.

The infrastructure sharing arrangement will allow the telecommunication operators to increase their coverage by utilizing the proposed base stations to reach new subscribers while concentrating on value added services.