Mobile telecommunication subscribers have increased sharply since 2008, with last year’s figures from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) showing that there are more than 1,5 million new cell phone users within a year.
Statistics for the current year are not yet available, but it is expected that the country now has upwards of five million mobile users, up from 2,19 million at the end of 2009.
After the rapid expansion in terms of cellphone use in the last two years, the telecommunications companies now have to look elsewhere for business or else they become dogs.
Data communication was one area where the three mobile telecommunication companies, Econet, Telecel and NetOne, sought new frontiers, but the traditional players have not been sleeping.
PowerTel recently announced that it had connected the country to the outside world through optic fibre to the submarine cable systems straight into the Global Internet Exchange.
This was the first company in the country to do so and it had an impact in terms of internet speed, quality as well as the cost.
“Because of limited capacity of satellite bandwidth, the cost of bandwidth is high, with bandwidth delivered by optic fibre there are economies of scale resulting in lower cost of bandwidth into the country ultimately translating to lower internet usage charges,” said PowerTel when announcing the launch of the new technology. “We believe that our valued customers will get huge spinoffs of lower tariffs for high quality service.”
Econet has over the past year proven to be a major player in data communication especially after launching the 3rd Generation, EDGE and GPRS platforms which allow mobile users to access internet.
However, with the coming in of PowerTel’s new facility, Econet has to fend off this competition as its rival is banking on the low prices it offers for the modem, the sim card and monthly charges.
Econet, not to be outdone, announced a fortnight ago that “high-speed, widespread, broadband internet will be available from late October”.
Data communication is a territory with a lot of competition as traditional players like Africom are offering one month free internet for its CDMA mobile internet.
Apart from the competition they face in the new terrain, the three mobile operators are also squared off against each other in terms of service provision.
Telecel is currently running a campaign where a new handset, a sim card and US$10 worth of airtime cost US$17.
On the other hand, Econet last week partnered Afre Corporation (formerly First Mutual Life Assurance Ltd) for a life insurance product.
The new product is called EcoLife, was innovative in that it seeks to assist Zimbabweans without life insurance.
The use of multiple currencies has seen a surge in cell phone subscribers and a massive drop in connection fees. A sim card which cost US$30 last year is now almost free.