By Michael Malakata
22 February 13
The Zambia Electricity Supply Corp. (Zesco) has launched phase two of a fiber-optic network extension project that will link neighboring Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo to create a telecom hub in the region.
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The company said it will spend over US$93 million to complete the installation of the network, planned to cover 6,500 km by the end of this year.
The company has already connected Namibia and Tanzania to its fiber network, according to Christopher Mubemba, Zesco's director of transmission. The company said its fiber network, dubbed Fibrecom, already carries 60 percent of the Southern African country's Internet traffic.
The network is designed to facilitate the provision of broadband communication services to banks, schools, hospitals, government departments and the business community in various parts of Zambia and regional countries that have experienced poor services due to a lack of communication infrastructure.
The money for the network extension project is provided by the Chinese government through the Bank of China and as expected, Chinese company ZTE has been contracted by Zesco to install the fiber cables. The fiber network is also expected to enhance efficiency and reliability in the control and management of the electrical grid through high-voltage line protection, inter-country operations and national call center operations.
The development will also enable Zambia to have a fast and extensive telecommunications backbone.
In the last two years, the company has generated about $13 million from the fiber network, according to Mubemba, speaking at a press event this week. Minister of Transport and Communications Christopher Yaluma said the investment by Zesco will improve people's livelihoods as reliable information and communication technology (ICT) will create investment opportunities in rural areas and enhance the implementation of e-health, e-commerce and e-learning.
Zesco's power cables are designed to offer reliable telecommunications support for mobile, fixed and internet technology and are currently used by telecom operators including South Africa's MTN and Airtel.
In 2011, Zesco released 3G spectrum, which will enable mobile service providers to deploy 3G services and is expected to boost data speed.