Listed telecoms giant, Econet Wireless has bemoaned the obtaining tariffs for telecommunication companies saying they are below viable levels making cost of doing business high and compromising service delivery.
Businesses across sectors have generally lamented the challenging business environment characterised by currency volatility and inflationary pressures.
Econet highlighted it continued to record significant foreign currency losses due to the weakening exchange rate which deteriorated by 172 percent for the first quarter to May 31, 2022.
This comes at a time access to foreign currency also remains severely constrained creating further challenges in implementation of necessary network upgrades to assure the continued level of high quality service.
For telecoms – a capital intensive sector – adoption of a scientific and fact-based approach to setting tariffs, that takes into account the movements in the Telecommunications Price Index (TPI) would be a relief for the sector, according to Econet.
“This will allow the group to remain focused on delivering high quality digital services across the country by being able to invest sufficiently to absorb the increasing demand for its services,” said company secretary Charles Banda in a trading update for the first quarter to May 31, 2022.
This also comes as the group is looking at narrowing the digital divide in the country as the rural population has remained largely marginalised in terms of full access to digital services with less than 20 percent of devices in the country being LTE/4G capable.
Said Mr Banda: “The group, with the support of the authorities, would like to tackle this challenge to ensure that digital inclusivity is achieved across all sectors of our society.”
In their quest to enhance efficiency in service provision, Econet became the first mobile network operator to roll out 5G service in Harare towards the end of the last financial year.
In the quarter under review, 5G service was further rolled out in Bulawayo during the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF 2022) and in Victoria Falls as well as in Chitungwiza, bringing the total number of 5G sites rolled out to 22. The business added 100 new 4G sites to improve network and speed of data connectivity.
Despite these efforts, persistent national grid power outages have affected network quality and reliability, thereby necessitating the business to increase efforts to augment power supply with solar power.
There has also been an increase in theft of diesel, batteries and solar panels due to mounting economic challenges forcing the telecoms giant to increase security at its sites to counter the effects of increased vandalism and theft.
During the first quarter, voice and data traffic grew by 6 percent and 18 percent respectively, over the previous quarter. This growth was achieved largely due to customer acquisition strategy.
The telecommunications sector was granted a tariff adjustment by the regulator of 61 percent in July 2022, another 61 percent with effect from 1 September 2022, and a further 61 percent with effect from 1 November 2022.
The tariff adjustments will cover voice, SMS, data and internet services and are determined in the local currency.