LILONGWE-(MaraviPost). Internet users in the country are expected to access data at a cheaper and faster rate than before following Malawi government rolling out of the much awaited virtual landing point and fiber optic cable.
The development comes amid internet users’ outcry over data high cost the country’s mobile operators charging which impede the rural communities accessing internet services while favouring the rich elite.
Since 2014, Malawi government through Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) with funding from World Bank contracted SimbaNet, an international a wholesale internet provider to construct fibre optic network of about 1000 kilometers of fibre from Songwe River to Lilongwe and onwards to Mchinji connecting Zambia.
Therefore, with the completion of fibre cable construction means that Malawi is now access to internet connectivity to Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Mozambique at faster and cheaper rate data charges.
For communities to start accessing cheaper and faster internet services depend on how much the country’s mobile operators including Airtel, TNM, MTL and Access will buy the bandwidth from SimbaNet as government has allocated 75 percent for them to utilize to provide internet services unlike in the past as satellite was used which still remain costly to run.
The country’s Virtual Landing Point has been mounted at Capital Hill (Government offices) in the capital Lilongwe whereby the nation is expected to spend less than US$200 (MK135,000) per megabyte per second from US$ 3000 (MK2.1 million) prior to the project (when using satellite).
In an exclusive interview with The Maravi Post on Wednesday, evening, May 4 in the capital Lilongwe after launching virtual landing point and fiber optic cable on the significant of the project to the nation, Patricia Kaliati, Minister of Information, Communications Technology and Civic Education assured the general public of high quality and affordable broadband with expectation to revolutionize the mode of delivering services in the country’s sectors including education, health, transportation, tourism, energy, industry and trade.
Kaliati says government will leverage on the increased broadband capacity to embark on the e-Government services delivery framework with establishment of the international connectivity that might require immediately followed up with investments in an extensive domestic fibre optic backbone in order to distribute affordable capacity to various end users including government institutions, banks, educational establishments and health facilities among others.
“Without a comprehensive domestic backbone, the establishment of international connectivity will be of very limited benefit to Malawians. It is in this regard that I would like to ask the World Bank other cooperating partners to assist Malawi in expanding the broadband reach through investment in a strong domestic backbone commonly referred as the last mile connectivity such that a strong domestic backbone will undoubtedly accelerate the augmentation of public services through the e-Government paradigm.
“I would like to request the internet service provider to pass on the enormous savings delivered by SimbaNet at the Virtual Landing Point to end users. Government wont countenance a situation where the massive cost reductions realized through this project are simply translated into monopoly profits for the new services providers in this country. Macra and Competition and Fair Trade Commission must ensure that multiple service providers are granted licenses to increase competition and therefore eliminating the pervasive and exploitative practice of overcharging on internet”, urges Kaliati.
Minister Kaliati therefore warns against those who will be vandalizing the infrastructures saying stem measures were in place including CCTV camera in all points to detect perpetuators of vandalizing that those might be involved will face the law.
Echoing on the same Rakesh Kukreja, SimbaNet Managing Director expressed gratitude for the completion of the project saying the initiative would stimulate increase in private sector activities through delivery of quality internet bandwidth and infrastructure services.
SimbaNet is part of the Wananchi Group of companies on technology service provider operating in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and now Malawi. In 2015, the company launched Zuku entertainment TV service over satellite with various bouquets services in Malawi.