London-headquartered Liquid Telecom, backed by Zimbabwean-owned Econet Wireless, has completed the first phase of a fibre-optic backbone network in Zambia, as part of a wider southern African high speed transmission rollout. Phase one of the network links the capital, Lusaka, with the Zambian copper belt. Phase two is set to go live by the end of this year, and will connect Chirundu, Ndola, Kabwe, Chingola and Chiliabombwe. CEO Nic Rudnick told TechCentral that Liquid has so far deployed about 8,500km of fibre across the southern African region, linking South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia, and will soon extend fibre routes to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The company has invested USD170 million in the fibre network, with funding from shareholders and debt raised from banks, and through vendor financing.