NetOne to install data, internet infrastructure

STATE owned mobile phone operator NetOne intends to deploy additional capital this year towards installation of data and internet service infrastructure, as data traffic continues to dominate the firm’s revenue mix compared to voice.

The mobile telecoms firm said data traffic now contributes 51 percent to its revenue while voice traffic accounts for about 49 percent.

According to Zimbabwe’s telecoms sector report from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), the number of active internet and data subscriptions increased by 7,5 percent to 10,6 million in the third quarter of 2023 from 9,9 million in the second quarter.

Internet penetration rate increased by 4,9 percent to 70,1 percent, from 65,2 recorded in the second quarter.

Mobile internet and data traffic increased by 6,2 percent to 44, 67 petabytes, from 42, 06 petabytes.

The statistics demonstrate the growing use of data and internet services in Zimbabwe.

In 2023, NetOne invested US$17 million and $12 billion in capital programmes, to optimise network coverage, particularly internet and data services going into 2024.

Some of the funding went towards the tower redeployment project, rollout of 3G sites capacity upgrades, installation of a new radio network controller, radio access equipment, core network equipment including routers and switching apparatus.

Given the growing outages of commercial power, Netone also invested in renewable energy sources after it deployed 100 solar-powered base stations with lithium battery backups, which made sure that all the major backbone sites have alternative clean energy power.

Speaking on the sidelines of NetOne’s 2022 annual general meeting, NetOne chief executive officer Raphael Mushanawani said the company made strides in network upgrades last year, but was looking at aggressively investing in data using internally generated revenues this year.

He acknowledged that the company was still working on the US$71 million mobile broadband project, which is supported by a China Exim loan.

“We are seeing a growth towards data and this is why we embarked on a huge network upgrade, which we concluded in December to make sure that we meet requirements of our customers who are demanding more data as compared to voice.

“We successfully upgraded our network last year, and we have seen a large improvement in the provision of our data services. We will continue to do that in 2024 and make sure that the entire country is covered making sure we are in a position to provide digital telecommunications, focusing mainly on data,” said Mr Mushanawani.

He said initiatives were in the pipeline to upgrade the One Money system, Bulawayo core network, deployment of 5G network, and e-sim rollout.

“We have embarked on a programme to add mobile stations in the marginalised areas, we will be moving in and making sure that we deploy the stations in areas that we have identified. It is a requirement from our Government that we leave no one and no place behind.”

NetOne’s subscriber base grew to 4,3 million by December 2023 from 3,8 million in January 2023.

According to Potraz, the Netone subscriber base grew by 17,4 percent in the third quarter of 2023 alone.

NetOne Acting chief financial officer Chipo Chiguvare said the advent of Covid-19 saw a significant growth in data and internet services consumption as people growingly relied on online meetings and home-schooling.

The demand for data and internet services has been on a surge since then.

“Data continues to be a major contributor to our revenues and we have been noticing significant growth since 2020,” she said.

Netone board chairman, Engineer Taurayi Maurikira said the business continues to find ways to deliver value-improved strategic products.

“The business continues to strive to deliver products and services that translate into sustainable economic development across the market by enhancing financial inclusion and promoting equal digital access. Network enablers enhance customer trust, and improve the products offered to consumers,” stated Engineer Maurikira.

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