Transport and Communications Minister Brain Mushimba says the soon to be launched fourth mobile network service provider will create 400 jobs through a total investment value of about USD$400 million, and will give the existing network providers a run for their money.

And Mushimba says his ministry is in talks with ZICTA to ensure that money collected from penalties slapped on mobile service providers over poor services is channeled back to the consumers who are the most affected.

Speaking when he featured on Hot FM’s Frank on Hot programme, Tuesday, Mushimba expressed displeasure at the horrible services being provided by the three mobile service providers, charging that the introduction of the fourth mobile service provider would be a wake up call to them.

“I want to share the displeasure with the rest of the citizens in terms of the poor quality of services being provided by our mobile service providers; dropped calls and the quality of calls sometimes just leaves a lot to be desired. ZICTA through the licences that they give to the three existing operators, there is a parameter in there to measure the quality of service. And these three operators are penalised when the quality of service falls below a certain threshold. I have called the three of them to say let me understand the challenges on why quality is not improving the way it’s supposed to improve. Why are we are having these dropped calls and the data is being eaten, minutes are eaten and they can’t explain these things,” he said.

“But as a minister behind ICT, I am not sitting without doing anything…but what I challenge ZICTA on is this that if you are going to fine these operators and the person who is impacted is a consumer, why don’t we push that money back to the consumer? Because they are the ones that are at end of these bad services. So am in active conversation with ZICTA to make sure that these fines that they are getting, government doesn’t take all of it, some of it should be passed on to the consumer who is inconvenienced.”

Mushimba said the bad services by the existing telecommunication companies motivated government to create an enabling environment for a fourth provider.

“The fourth mobile operator is an initiative by this government. We looked at the licensing regime, we streamlined it and we actually changed it and made it more competitive so that others can come into the space. We believe as a government that if others can enter this ICT space and offer voice and data, there will be competition. Where competition is, the consumer always benefits because the companies are going to compete on quality of service, they are going to compete price of service and they are going to compete on reach of that service,” the minister said.

“Right now, the fourth mobile operator is about to launch. They were supposed to launch in March, they have been doing works in the background, they didn’t finish those works so they told ZICTA that they needed additional time to make sure that they connect the fibres and do all the setting up of the towers and signing of the contracts. ZICTA gave them a six months extension, that six months extension ends in September. So by October, Uzi is supposed to be entering the market. They are supposed to create 400 jobs, they are investing almost USD$400 million to set up a whole brand new network which is across the country and they are going to give Zamtel, MTN, Airtel a run for their money in terms of quality of service, in terms of cost of that service and as government, we are happy because the consumer is going to benefit.”

Meanwhile, Mushimba hoped that the introduction of cyber laws would curtail the abuse of social media by some disgruntled Zambians.

“We are grappling with the risks that come with cyber crimes. There are people who have taken advantage of the social media platforms to defraud people and to distribute content that is not desirable and several other activities that are happening. So we want to make sure that we create regulations and create boundaries so that people know what they can and cannot do. It will all be clearly defined, if you look at the Data Protection Bill, my personal information should be my personal information. People should not come and take pictures of me or go and access my medical prescription and publish that,” said Mushimba.

“If someone does that without my permission, that Data Protection Bill is going to give me all the recourse that I need and the punishment that will be mated to this person who accesses information without authority…the crack squad I talked about is actually very active. As of yesterday, there is a very notorious Facebook page that writes a lot of insults against the President, government and other public officials, they’ve been arrested. Yesterday I was getting a briefing that they are actually being interrogated. We are not stopping there, we are going after everyone who is in the habit of abusing other people using the comfort of their homes behind a computer. They need to be scared if they are in the habit of doing that because we are coming after them.”