A new report by the Consumer Unity Trust Society has revealed that all communication towers put up in rural areas do not meet both technical and legal requirements.

This is part of the findings contained in the flagship CUTS Consumer Manifesto which contains key consumer demands ahead of the January 20 presidential election.

The report shows that the towers fall short of meeting the 5 kilometre macro-coverage radius requirement as specified in the bidding document.

ZICTA launched a project to install 169 mobile telephone base stations in rural areas in the quest to bring connectivity and get rural communities in the cycles of mobile connectivity and improve penetration.
About 13 million dollars will be spent for the entire project.

The aim is to boost connectivity to remote communities and each tower is supposed to give consumers in the respective communities’ macro coverage of up to 5 kilometres in radius in line with the terms of reference.
The first communities installed with towers include Matanda in Luapula Province and Shakumbira, Malendema and Kaindu in Mumbwa district.

The report further revealed that as of October 2014, only two out of four towers had network life.

At the Matanda tower, the coverage was 1.65 km as opposed to the prescribed 5 km radius.

This entailed that 3.35 km meters was not being serviced.

And CUTS says the report findings raise questions of the capacity of the service provider and how these installations are being monitored by the regulator, ZICTA.

CUTS has since recommended that the incoming government should revoke Statutory Instrument 111 that prohibits the entry of another mobile operator in the sector.

It says ZICTA should take more action against mobile phone operators who offer a below-par service by activating clauses such as the ‘Naming and Shaming’.

‘More investment in internet and other telecommunication infrastructure is required. This can be achieved by setting aside some money from the Universal Service Fund to go towards building this infrastructure, as has successfully been achieved in Uganda,’ the report stated.

It said more accountability in the way the universal service funds are used by the relevant authorities and that a more radical approach of vetting the services being delivered will be required by ZICTA as public resources are at stake.

‘Probably, ensuring that all the specifications are met before granting a go ahead on the installations of other towers. If already being done, then there has to be more precision attached to it. Further, communities or social groups ought to be engaged in monitoring the performance of the towers and this will promote a right based approach.’

‘It is a right of every citizen in these communities being services to be engaged in monitoring the construction and actual application of these services. By doing so they are able to impose political and reputational costs on service providers,’ the report concluded.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. When you rush things quality is always sidelined. The saying we are in a hurry to develop the country – to do so and so for political mileage should be avoided. Proper feasibility studies, EIA and quality assurance must always be undertaken before any meaningful and sustainable development can be achieved.

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  2. I totally agree with CUTS,the service being offered by these towers is far below par. This has got nothing to do with the service providers as they are just handed these towers by ZICTA. The type on antanas being used on these towers are of omni type and those of you that are engineers will understand that it is very difficult to get coverage of 5 kilometers with these type of antennas,the best would have been to use sectored antennas and increase the height of these towers.

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  3. CUTS has raised fundamental issues concerning communication system placement in Zambia. Most private communication companies offer shoddy services based on exploitation rates and deception. They copy cut facilities offered in developed countries and subject poor Zambians to their rates and conditions. An example is where credit on mobile phones is used up on unsolicited adverts on consumers sets, long queues of queries to network providers and shoddy services

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    • For me I have problems with the company which was given the contract to do the job. this is a company South Sudan doesn’t want to see. I am sure i will be able to trace the URL of the story where Huwaei forged government document to its favour. Hope ZDA has been monitoring such investors against the prescribed performance agreements.

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  4. Given that about 60% of Zambia’s population is in the rural areas with poor road network, it goes without saying that wireless communication has to be well planned and given priority by the next Govt. There has to be affordable broadband to cover education, entertainment and information flow.

    The good news is that there is no need to reinvent the wheel when rolling out broadband into rural areas. What is needed is simply to learn from other Countries that have successfully done it without exposing their citizens to exploitation, and follow their footsteps.

    Done properly, there is alot of potential for job creation thru working remotely. Distance ceased to be a barrier a long time ago.

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  5. The contractor getting the fund should have clauses in the contract binding him to 5 km of coverage. Otherwise no payment!
    And indeed he should have the freedom to install the right kind of antennas and tower etc.

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