About the accuracy and reliability of Zimbabwe’s mobile telecoms stats

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

In Zimbabwe, there’s been a lot of confusion of the the mobile subscriber statistics released regularly by the mobile operators themselves to shareholders, as well as those released by POTRAZ, the regulator of the space.


Recently for example, when we wrote that Telecel’s active subscribers were down again for the 3rd consecutive quarter, the company pointed out that the implication was that they were losing subscribers (and were therefore unhealthy business -wise) while their competition, Econet and government owned NetOne, were healthy and growing.

Econet has consistently reported for the past 2 years a subscriber figure that is, it appears now, consistently at huge variance with the actual number of active subscribers. They are very clear that they report “connected” subscribers, yes, but we wonder how many of their shareholders and indeed the market, understand that a connected subscriber is not where the real story is. NetOne on the other hand is government controlled and their figures never really come out except what they report to government and what sometimes they report to other politicians in parliamentary hearings.

So, in the interest of getting proper clarification on the definition of terms, we asked POTRAZ to provider us what they consider active, connected and registered,and ultimately how clean these subscribers’ databases are. Below are the responses we received:

Techzim: Are the subscriber figures reported by POTRAZ, active subscribers, registered subscribers or connected subscribers?
POTRAZ reports active subscriber figures as well as data on connected subscribers. POTRAZ collects information on all the three categories of subscribers, i.e. Active subscribers, connected subscribers and registered subscribers.

TZ: What is POTRAZ’s definition of Active Subscribers?
An active mobile subscriber is defined as a subscriber who has used the network at least once in the last three months for making or receiving a call or carrying out a non-voice activity such as sending or receiving an SMS or accessing the internet.

– Connected Subscribers?
This refers to the total number of subscribers in an operator`s Home Location Register (HLR) i.e. Those subscribers who are connected to the network. NB: The definitions for active subscriber and connected subscriber are not just POTRAZ definitions but they are internationally recognised definitions from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)

Registered Subscriber?
This refers to a subscriber who has fulfilled all the requirements for SIM registration as set out by Statutory Instrument number 95 of 2014 and has been duly registered by the network service provider. The time lag between registration and connection differs from operator to operator; hence the number of registered subscribers does not equal the number of connected subscribers.

TZ: Since the subscribers represents SIM cards and not actual individuals, what is the estimated number of individuals in Zimbabwe that own and use at least one SIM card?
In 2014 POTRAZ in collaboration with the ZIMSTAT carried out a National Survey on ICT Access and Use by Households and Individuals. Data collected during the survey is being analysed and a report on the findings will be released during the course of 2015. The findings will provide insight into the actual number of individuals who own a SIM Card as well as the extent of multiple ownership.

When was the last time that operators cleared up inactive subscribers? Roughly how many subscribers were disconnected because of this exercise? How often does this happen a year?
Regulatory Directive Number 2 of 2010 on Window Periods sets the period of time that an inactive subscriber can remain on the network. The Initial suspension period is set at 90 days. Thereafter, the customer is granted 365 days to remain on the network after which the customer will be cut off the network. The clearing up of inactive subscribers is done on an ongoing basis.

You can download the latest POTRAZ telecoms report here for this the 2014, Q3 statistics.



  1. gwaku chitiviri

    So where is the story??? This is utter rubbish poor journalism. Headline and story not tallying…

  2. Magneto

    The devil is always in the details…

  3. GUEST

    The download file/doc is corrupted. Very Frustrating!!!!!

  4. GUEST

    Can we just put up an uncorrupted download file/doc already??? Veduwe…

    1. L.S.M Kabweza

      Sorry dude. We’ve converted to pdf. please try again.