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Wednesday, Oct 16th

Beleaguered Zim telcos scramble to keep the lights on

Beleaguered Zim telcos scramble to keep the lights on

Zimbabwean telcos are contemplating a shift to solar energy amid ongoing power outages, but claim costs are prohibitive.

This is understood to have prompted the government to consider incentives to attract and import solar equipment, while Treasury has removed customs duties on solar kits.

Power cuts are a regular occurrence in Zimbabwe and telcos are believed to be fuelling generators to power base stations for up to 18 hours a day.

Executives have told ITWeb Africa that the costs are "piling up."

"It's no-longer making sense, the costs are piling up and the margins have been squeezed because there is no movement on the tariff side. The industry is under pressure," said one business leader.

Econet, which continues to dominate the market, has taken to mainstream media to inform subscribers that its business is also feeling the impact of the economic crisis which has exacerbated the electricity deficit. The government has reportedly approved an electricity tariff hike.

"What you feel, we feel what you feel too. It's not business as usual," Econet said in its adverts.

Service tariff issue

The company added that its situation is worsened by the non-approval for an increase in service tariffs.

Econet commented: "Whilst businesses are ready to accept a 14 times power tariff increase, Econet is still operating at US$0.02 instead of a viable tariff that will guarantee a quality telecoms service in the country."

According to the company, its 1300 base stations incur extra costs because of having to run generators, consuming two million litres of diesel per month.

The company says it requires US$60-million to migrate its base stations to solar.

Cabinet has since set up an inter-ministerial committee, including ICT Minister Kazembe Kazembe, to handle the crisis.

Kazembe has been quoted in local press urging telcos to upgrade their base stations to solar as a way of managing the power crisis.

"We are recommending that the operators install solar for their base stations. I'm aware that some of Econet's base stations are already on solar, and I'm also aware that NetOne is considering going the same route. Energy is cross-cutting and it affects all sectors," Kazembe said.

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