Tuesday, February 19, 2013

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW) Zimbabwe tele-density soars 16 percent

Zimbabwe tele-density soars 16 percent
Sunday, 17 February 2013 00:00
Prince Mushawevato

The number of Zimbabweans with access to a telephone has risen by 16 percent, latest figures from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) show. Potraz deputy director-general Mr Alfred Marisa last week said a continually expanding mobile telephone service sector was driving the growth of tele-density in the country.

Global telecommunication regulator, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), defines tele-density as the number of telephone main lines per 100 inhabitants in a particular country or territory.

“A number of factors have contributed to the increase of tele-density over the years,” said Mr Marisa.

“We expect it (tele-density) to continue increasing as more people pursue these new technologies. The rural populace that has previously been marginalised is also moving in to close the gap.”
As of January 2013, the total tele-density rate for both mobile and fixed telephony stood at 91 percent from 75 percent that was recorded in December 2011.

While mobile tele-density has been on the increase, it is a different case with fixed tele-density, which has, since the advent of mobile technology, been on the decline.

In the last three years, TelOne has lost close to 100 000 subscribers.
In the period in question, mobile penetration increased by 16 percent, while fixed telephony dropped by 0,2 percent.

Local subscriptions for the Internet now stand at 4,5 million, representing a 34,4 percent leap from two million subscribers recorded in 2011, Potraz statistics also show.

Local information communication technology (ICT) players contend that the introduction of favourable policies by Government and the slashing of SIM card prices have helped boost business within the sector.

The duty-free rebate on the importation of ICT gadgets has also been a boon for mobile handset vendors, including other equipment suppliers as well.

Also, increased investment in communication infrastructure has meant that previously marginalised areas can now afford to use mobile phones.
Since the stabilisation of the economy in 2009, SIM cards are now reasonably priced.

During the height of the country’s economic challenges, the price of SIM cards peaked to more than US$100 on the black market as the cards were scarce.

However, they now average US$1 and are readily available.
Furthermore, an ordinary handset can now be purchased for as little as US$10.

It is believed that Zimbabwe’s three mobile service providers — Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, Telecel Zimbabwe and the State-run NetOne — now have a combined subscriber base of more than 10 million.

In 2011 the figure stood slightly above seven million subscribers.
Recently, Econet, which is the country’s largest telecommunications company by market value and subscribers, announced that its subscribers had reached 8 million, buoyed by the company’s extensive coverage around the country.

Going forward, Mr Marisa also noted that the increase in tele-density has been in line with the increase in the country’s population.
The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency’s (Zimstats) recent preliminary national population census results revealed that the country’s population had marginally increased to 13 million, up from the 11,6 million figure that was recorded in 2002.

The country’s tele-density has been gradually increasing since the adoption of the multi-currency system.

However, in 2011 the figure took a dip after Potraz de-registered subscribers that had not registered their lines.

The increase in telephone penetration has seen the country improve its ranking in the region, competing with countries such as Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.

Government intends to achieve a 10 percent growth rate in tele-density on an annual basis through 2015.

Meanwhile, the tele-density figures are expected to continue growing as Potraz is set to roll out more base stations across the country.

The tele-communications regulator announced last year that it would construct at least 43 new base stations in poorly serviced areas throughout the country under the second phase of the Universal Services Fund (USF). More than US$20 million is expected to be sunk into the project.

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