Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
THE country’s mobile network operator, NetOne, has started constructing a new base station in rural Lupane, which will enhance mobile connectivity in 14 wards.
The new base station is located in Mzola and will enhance connectivity in 14 wards under Kusile Rural District Council in Lupane West.
Lupane is one of the areas that still has challenges with mobile network in the country because of distance between network boosters and rough terrain as most parts are in valleys, which makes connection a challenge.
The new booster, which is at slab level, is being constructed as part of the project where Netone partnered Huawei of China through a strategic co-operation between China and Zimbabwe.
Lupane West Legislator, Martin Khumalo, confirmed that work is underway despite challenges that were faced at inception stages.
He said most places in the district, especially Lupane West and those places away from the main road have no mobile network coverage.
“The Mzola booster will cover a majority of people in Lupane West as 14 wards will be serviced by it. Available boosters are along the highway and because of the terrain where the place has many valleys because of rivers like Tshangane. There is no network and those boosters at Jotsholo can’t reach most areas,” said Khumalo.
NetOne got US$71 million for the project where 260 new base stations are to be constructed countrywide to improve mobile network coverage and enhance e-learning and other online-based services especially in rural areas.
Under the project, base stations are being upgraded from 2G to 3G and 4G, as well as 5G in some cases. The NetOne expansion project started in 2011 with Phase 1.
Khumalo said building a vibrant digital economy is a vital component towards Government’s goal of achieving a middle-income economy by 2030.
He said the construction started in 2017 but delayed because contractors had challenges with the loose soils, which made it difficult to build the foundation for the structure.
“The foundation delayed because of currency changes and nature of soils. The foundation had to be deep because the soils are loose and almost 600 bags of cement were used to make sure its strong,” said Khumalo.
He said all the material is now on site.
Engineers at some stage reportedly condemned river sand from a nearby river because it was too soft to be used and they opted for the one from Tshangane River and its extraction only started recently when water levels subsided.
“We are happy with the project as that will connect many schools and institutions in the area while community members based in the diaspora will be able to communicate with the rest of the members. Locals have been employed for the construction work,” said Khumalo.
Villagers had also been struggling to transact using mobile money platforms because of lack of network.
Chief Mabhikwa of Lupane said mobile coverage will enhance e-services and empower farmers and small businesses.
“We thank Government for this booster as many areas had not been connected for a long time. We have farmers especially in Lusulu, which is the province’s breadbasket, who should be well updated but they fail to communicate because of lack of network coverage,” he said.
“So, with this booster we know learning will improve in schools and small businesses will also be empowered.”
Matabeleland North Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Richard Moyo, said the Second Republic’s thrust is to leave no one behind in development.
He implored mobile network operators to erect more boosters in rural communities.
“We have places that have no connection at all and we have spoken to operators to build more boosters so that all communities get connected,” he said. [email protected]