According to AllAfrica.com, the Zambian government is planning to put a number of fibre pairs currently controlled by state-owned power company Zesco in to the hands of Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel). It is understood that the move is part of the state’s plans to make the telco more attractive to potential buyers, as the privatisation process of the operator moves forward. Under the proposals the government will transfer seven of twelve fibre pairs that Zesco has; of the remaining five, two are used by Zesco to manage its power network, one is used by South Africa-based MTN, which owns a mobile operator in Zambia, while the last two are not currently in use. Local ISPs have voiced their concerns about the proposals however, with one unnamed market operator stating: ‘All the ISPs don’t want this to happen. We have a good relationship with Zesco and we put a lot of capacity through their link. If it happens, I’ll have to lay fibre routes and that’s not my business. We’re looking at VoIP offerings because the current prices of international calling are still USD1.10-USD1.50 a minute.’
At present Chinese vendor Huawei is in the process of rolling out a fibre backbone for Zamtel, but it remains incomplete and by comparison to Zesco’s existing infrastructure is significantly less expansive. Zesco’s fibre network spans the economically active central part of the country from Lumwana and Solwezi in the north to Sesheke in the south.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the Zambian government first announced plans to divest a portion of its stake in Zamtel in December 2008. In September 2009 it revealed it would sell 75% of the struggling operator, and one year after initially unveiling its intention to sell, the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA), which is handling the process, announced the shortlist of bidders: India’s Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, Unitel of Angola and Libya’s LAP Green Networks. Russia’s Altimo was subsequently added to the list, despite submitting its bid after deadline.