The Zambian government has opened talks with Chinese tech giant Huawei over the possibility of deploying 5 Generation Internet in Zambia.
5G is the next generation of mobile internet that is expected to enable everything from instant downloads of movies to connected self-driving cars.
The move to deploy 5G internet in Zambia was disclosed by Transport and Communications Minister Brian Mushimba who met Huawei officials at his office recently.
Dr Mushimba said Huawei, who are the technology partner for the GRZ Communication Tower Project Phase II have committed to upgrading all the sites seamlessly to 5G capability.
He was speaking on Tuesday at Zamtel House in Lusaka when he officiated at the launch of ZamPay Number Neutral Capability Feature.
The Number Neutral Capability Feature allows customers across all three networks in Zambia to download ZamPay, the country' first Quick Response (QR) code payment platform.
The new feature on ZamPay also allows customers outside Zambia to download ZamPay on their phones and send cash to their contacts in Zambia at a small fee.
Dr Mushimba emphasized that Zambia does not want to be left behind in innovation and adoption of internet technologies.
South Korea SK Telecom KT and LG Uplus launched the world first nationwide 5G mobile on April 3rd 2019 while Verizon has begun rolling out its 5G services in Chicago.
The US has made some solid ground catching up to China's existing 5G presence.
A recent report published by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), which represents the US wireless communications industry, found the US and China are now tied for first place in 5G readiness.
According to the Financial Times, Huawei, the company that is leading a global race to build 5G mobile networks revealed that it has 40 commercial contracts it has won for 5G equipment are from mainly from Europe, the Middle East, Asia and one contract from Africa.
Since last year, the USA has been lobbying other governments to drop Huawei as a 5G equipment supplier, arguing that the security of their networks could be compromised.
In Africa, MTN South Africa and Huawei conducted the continent's first outdoor 5G field trial in Hartfield, Pretoria on May 8th 2018.
And Dr Mushimba said Zambia wants to be ready to benefit from the immense opportunities that Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT), Industry 4.0. and Artificial Intelligence that come with 5G.
"We have put innovation at the center of the future of the digital economy. We will invest to make it to grow. You have heard of the towers, the 1009 we are putting up across the country. We are now motivating for a new project to upgrade all the towers from 2,3 to 4G, that means internet across the country and this is fast internet," Dr Mushimba said.
"I was meeting Huawei in my office the other day, we are upgrading to 4G all the towers and we understand and for today, that is enough but we have heard about 5G, we asked them what guarantee do we have that as we upgrade from 4G to 5G, will be seamless, they have assured that the upgrade will mean the towers will be 5G enabled. We will be ready because 5G will be here,"
He added, "I truly believe in the unprecedented impact that the internet will have on our lives.
Dr Mushimba described the launch of the ZamPay Number Neutral Capability Feature as ground breaking innovation.
He said even those that are outside Zambia, they can download ZamPay on their phone and send money to someone with a Zambian number.
"I just wish Zamtel would have launched this when I was living in the US many years ago. When I was in the US, I used to struggle to send cash back home to my Mom, sending a 300 dollars, I would be required to pay 60 dollars in fees, I don't think Zamtel will charge that much," he said.
Dr Mushimba said with products such as ZamPay, the country will accelerate its efforts of going cashless.
"We are going to transact cashless because all the barriers that existed have been addressed with this launch today," he said.
At the same function, Zamtel Chief Executive Officer Mr Sydney Mupeta said Zamtel is determined to contribute positively to financial inclusion and urged business players to register with the platform for easier paperless transactions.
Mr Mupeta said the ZamPay platform was not accessible to customers on the other networks except to those on Zamtel.
"However, the Number Neutral capability feature we are launching today will now allow customers on all networks to download the ZamPay Application and be able to enjoy the benefits of transacting by simply scanning a QR code using their mobile devices," Mr Mupeta said.
He added, "this development is a huge milestone for Zamtel and for our people who were previously not able to use the system because of the limitation when we first launched it. Today we celebrate and welcome to the ZamPay family a number of our brothers and sisters who are currently on other networks and were not able to be part of this exciting innovation. I therefore urge them to take advantage of this opportunity and download the ZamPay Application on Google Play store today."
Mr Mupeta also announced that ZamPay now has additional features to improve customer experience.
"In addition to the number neutral capability, a number of other features have been added to the ZamPay product to enhance its benefits. Last week, we announced the integration of ZamPay with the Zamtel Kwacha platform. With this integration, our customers on ZamPay are now able to send and receive money just like they would on any mobile money platform. The customers on ZamPay will soon be able to purchase other services such as Water and ZESCO units, DSTV and other services which are available on the mobile money platform. It is evident that ZamPay will soon become an integral part of our day to day lifestyle," he said.