Huawei to upgrade NetOne’s rural Zimbabwe network

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Loan at 2% interest helps state-owned operator expand network into rural areas

Zimbabwe’s state-owned mobile operator, NetOne, has signed a financial deal with Huawei to expand and modernise its network.

The deal calls for the construction of 250 base stations to provide coverage – and services including mobile banking – to rural parts of the country. It is funded through a soft loan from China Exim [export-import] Bank, according to Harare’s Herald newspaper.

Brian Mutandiro, acting CEO of NetOne, told the Herald: “As part of our 100-day plan, we included accessibility to rural communities as a major quick-win and with the signing of this contract, we are happy to say that we will deliver this goal. We want to thank the government for facilitating this arrangement and it is now for us to deliver.”

The project, worth $71 million, is the third phase of an expansion and modernisation programme that has seen NetOne spend $485 million since it launched the project in 2010. This phase should see the company increase its number of base stations to 3,000.

NetOne is paying 2% a year interest on the $485 million, said the Ecofin news agency. The money is payable over 20 years.

NetOne has 4.87 million customers, second to the privately owned Econet – part of the same group as Liquid Telecom – which has 7.14 million. Telecel, also government-owned, has 1.79 million.