“The honeymoon is over for the mobile operators!”
These were the words of the Minister of ICT in Zimbabwe, Nelson Chamisa, at a function held alongside this year’s ICT Africa in Harare yesterday. Chamisa decried the current poor state of the mobile phone network services in Zimbabwe promising to rectify the situation. He said that while the mobile penetration has grown to almost 90%, the cost of mobile communications to subscribers is still too high and the quality of calls inversely poor.
Without specifying how the government would resolve the issue the minister stated emphatically “it’s time to read the riot act on our mobile operators”. Chamisa said that as government they had given the mobile network operators enough time to fix the problems with their networks since the dollarization of the economy, but that until now the rate of dropped calls remains very high.
The ICT Minister also said in his address that his ministry is currently working with the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) to ensure the tariffs of both voice calls and data are revised downwards to afford Zimbabweans access to the critical resources at reasonable rates.
Zimbabwe has 3 GSM mobile network telcos currently in operation, namely Econet, Telecel and NetOne. Econet, the largest of the 3 by both network coverage and number of subscribers, announced recently that it now has about 7.1 million connected users. Telecel, the second largest by number of subscribers, also announced yesterday that as at the end of August, the company had reached 2.2 million active subscribers. NetOne, a state owned mobile operator, and smallest of the 3, announced in August that it had reached about 1.8 million subscribers.
The average rate of a mobile call from one network to another locally is US 25 cents per minute. Calls within the network are priced at 23 cents per minute. As required by law, billing on all mobile networks is per-second based. 3G mobile broadband services (and Edge, and GPRS) provided by Econet are generally priced at 15 cents per megabyte of data used. Telecel and NetOne charge 11 cents and 7 cents per megabyte (out of bundle) respectively.