GOVERNMENT is expected to soon finalise the US$280 million loan agreement with the Export and Import Bank of China to finance the construction of communication towers.
Minister of Transport and Communication Brian Mushimba said the loan is expected to be concluded by next month and will result in phase two of the construction of towers with over 800 towers expected to be established.
During the ICT stakeholders’ consultative meeting yesterday, Mr Mushimba said the communication towers will target dense clusters of settlements and economically active areas such as rural health centres, schools, farm blocks, mines and tourism centres.
“We are concluding the loan discussions and we should sign in June or July so that we can roll out the towers,” he said.
Under phase one of the project, a total of 204 towers were erected in some chiefdoms and other areas across the country.
Mr Mushimba has also expressed concern over the poor quality of information communications technology (ICTs) services, particularly voice calls.
On poor quality of ICT services, Mr Mushimba urged service providers to ensure quality services are provided unlike the current trend where subscribers are being subjected to poor services.
Meanwhile, the number of active telecommunications subscribers has increased, hitting 12 million as at December last year from 11.6 million recorded the previous year.
This represents an improvement in mobile penetration from 74.3 percent in 2015 to 74.9 percent last year with MTN Zambia recording the largest market share at 48.3 percent while Airtel Zambia recorded a market share of 41.4 percent. Zamtel is lagging with only 10.4 percent.
“[However], access to internet services in the country reduced from a total of 6.1 million internet users in 2015 to 5.2 million users last year. More people are now on phones as shown by the rise in mobile subscription but few have smartphones to access internet,” he said.
Government is in the process of unbundling the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act number 21 of 2009 into five different Acts.
At the same function, Information and Communications Technology Society of Zambia president Alick Siankumo said the deployment of e-government services presents an opportunity for local ICT firms, but the participation in public tenders has been undermined by, among other reasons, restricted access to tender notices due to cost or limited publication.