STATE owned mobile phone operator, Telecel Zimbabwe, will soon unveil its long-term evolution and extend its coverage under a $200 million deal brokered by Government. ,
Information Communication Technology, Postal and Couriers Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira told guests during a cocktail briefing in the capital, Harare on Wednesday that Government was working with Telecel to finalise the financing package.
The funding will enable the mobile phone operator to upgrade its network upgrade its infrastructure and introduce new broadband technologies such as LTE.
“At this stage, negotiations and discussions are ongoing with financiers for an investment of over $200 million to kick-start the Telecel project. More details of this funding will be communicated in due course. This funding will go a long way in ensuring that the company rolls out new technologies to meet subscriber needs,” the Minister said.
The minister also revealed at the same briefing that Telecel was already upgrading the network and that the company was continually improving its network but that the expected capital injection would allow the mobile operator to introduce LTE 4,5G.
“I am aware that the company has already commenced the network upgrades necessary to close the identified and well-known gaps in its service provision and will also be rolling out its 4,5G LTE infrastructure by the third quarter of 2017,” he added.
Telecel has had issues around its licensing and shareholding and failure to comply with the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, which the minister has said are now resolved following the acquisition of 60 percent majority shares by Government.
“We are all aware that in the past three or so years, Telecel’s existence was clouded with uncertainty due to issues to do with licensing, shareholding and non-compliance with the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.
“This state of affairs led some into questioning and doubting the company’s future. As a result some of Telecel customers jumped ship during this period of turbulence, the minister said.
Government, through a $40 million loan finance package provided by National Social Security Authority, late last year bought the 60 percent held by Russian telecoms giant Vimpelcom, which had acquired the entire shareholding of Telecel Globe.
The minister said he was pleased that Telecel had turned the corner and issues that haunted the company were now well behind it and that its future “is bright orange”.
“I am here to proudly declare that the Government, which is the new majority shareholder in Telecel is very keen to support any initiatives that will position the Company as a vibrant, successful and profitable entity,” Minister Mandiwanzira said.
As soon as the Government finalised the purchase of the 60 percent stake in Telecel, in January 2017, it made an immediate capital injection of $5 million into the operation.
The minister added that the Infrastructure Regulations SI 137 of November 2016 will enable infrastructure sharing to limit duplication and gear investment toward product innovation and better customer service particularly, in under served and remote areas.
“Telecel supports this Government’s position on infrastructure sharing and even prior to the promulgation of the SI 137 Infrastructure Regulations we were already working with other operators in identifying and sharing infrastructure,” said Telecel Zimbabwe chief executive officer, Mrs Angeline Vere on the side-lines of the event.
Minister Mandiwanzira indicated that Government had continued with efforts to sanitise the ‘shareholder wars’ and eventually make the business private through listing or selling and as such plans to increase its 60 percent controlling interest in the firm to 100 percent.