POOR road network has heavily hampered telecommunication projects to the extent that Econet Wireless had to use donkeys to deploy equipment to a site in Nembudziya Gokwe because heavy trucks could not move on the road.
Econet Wireless chief executive officer Douglas Mboweni yesterday told Parliament that the road accessibility problem was so severe in some remote areas to the extent they had to move equipment by helicopter.
He said in some cases Econet had to construct access roads in order to install new power lines to connect communities in underserviced areas.
Mboweni and his management team said this when they appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services chaired by MDC-T Kuwadzana East MP Nelson Chamisa.
He told the committee that Econet was also struggling to get authorisation from local authorities for new base station sites in cities.
This, said Mboweni, has resulted in poor network coverage especially at inaccessible high security areas like State House.
“Power continues to be a challenge for Econet because 80% of our telecommunications infrastructure runs on diesel since there is lack of reliable electricity supply,” he i said.
“There is also the ‘pull down syndrome’ and parasitic behaviour in the telecommunications sector where we feel sharing of infrastructure should be synergistic and not parasitic, where someone just rides on other people’s back.”
The Econet boss said the legislative framework should encourage adoption of mobile money by public utilities to enhance revenue collection and customer convenience.
On administration of the Universal Services Fund (USF), Mboweni said Econet was the biggest contributor with $40 million having been contributed to date.
“Our colleagues in the sector may not have contributed to USF. We have also seen unfair practices in regulatory compliance where our colleagues are given fair conditions of 20 years for payment of licences.
“We have fully paid our 20-year licence of $137,5 million, while Telecel’s licence is partially paid and the status of payment by NetOne is unknown,” he said.
Econet has the most shared sites with 300 shared with other operators such as Zesa, Transmedia and NRZ.
On EcoCash, Mboweni said it provided financial inclusion where there were 3,5 million mobile money customers which accounted for 27% of the population.
He said over $4 billion was processed by EcoCash to date, which has 11 000 merchants and created 25 000 new jobs.
According to Econet, the company has since 1998 invested $1,2 billion dollars in the economy and has laid over 7 200km of fibre optic cable.