HARARE – The Zimbabwean government has resolved not to licence new mobile telephone service providers on grounds the industry is already saturated, a government minister has said.
Zimbabwe, with a population estimated at around 14 million, has more than 10 million active mobile phone subscribers on the country’s three network platforms, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Private Limited (Econet) with 6,4 million subscribers, Telecel Zimbabwe Private Limited (Telecel) with 2,5 million subscribers and state-owned NetOne with two million subscribers.
“As government, we have said the three that are there are already enough. We have a teledensity of over 90 percent already,” Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Nicholas Goche told businessdaily.
“Instead the three existing network providers should partner with other players and grow capacity,” he added.
The three operating licences are due for renewal next year.
“The players should not panic for as long as they comply with licence requirements,” Goche said.
Information, Communication Technology minister Nelson Chamisa said the country needs investment in network infrastructure, ICT services and ICT hardware and software applications.
Chamisa said government plans to continue utilising the Universal Services Fund (USF) to improve coverage for both voice calls and Internet services.
“We are going to play around with the USF so that we give universal access to broadband by 2015, because it’s now a basic human right,” he said.
The Post and Telecommunications regulatory authority has completed eight out of 11 sites for shared infrastructure in rural areas on phase one of its network expansion project.
The authority has earmarked 43 new sites in the coming year.
In an update Chamisa said Zimbabwe’s telecommunications infrastructure has a total of nine mobile switching centres used by Econet, Net One and Telecel and three truck switches for the country’s sole fixed network provider TelOne.
He said the country currently has 1 874 base stations mainly in Harare offering 3G, edge and general packet radio services.
According to the minister, Zimbabwe has two fibre optic links to regional countries and five radio terrestrial links.
TelOne, the country’s sole state-owned fixed telephone network, has 36 800 subscribers half of which are in Harare, 17 percent in the rural areas.
Teledensity stands at 89,9 percent while Internet penetration is at 18,4 percent.
In the past 12 months bandwidth to the Internet backbone has grown to 1,6 gigabits.