High demand for data strains Econet Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe’s largest telecommunications and technology company, achieved a first in Africa at the beginning of this month, by opening two free remittance corridors into Zimbabwe, eliminating costs for both sender and receiver.

Enacy Mapakame-Business Reporter

Mobile network operator — Econet Wireless Zimbabwe says increased demand for internet and data services has put pressure on its network, as businesses and individuals adopt remote working due to Covid-19 restrictions.

As the world battled the pandemic, Zimbabwe joined in the fight by implementing various levels of national lockdowns first implemented on March 30, 2020, resulting in companies and various other essential service providers adopting remote working. 

Schools have also adopted e-learning as part of initiatives to limit the spread of the pandemic.

This has resulted in a spike in demand for internet and data services, which Econet said was straining its network, although the telecoms giant has made efforts to improve the network capacity and contain the pressure.

This comes as data and voice traffic volumes increased by 77 percent and 25 percent respectively for the quarter to May 30, 2021.

“Although we have been able to accommodate this capacity growth, it has put a lot of strain on our network. 

“To date, investment in network infrastructure has positioned us to be the digital connectivity partner of choice for remote business operations, humanitarian and social connections,” said group company secretary Mr Charles Banda in a trading update for the quarter.

“However, more investment is necessary to allow us to meet the increasing needs of our customers. 

“We remain as committed as ever to provide faster speeds and wider coverage in line with the POTRAZ Covid-19 relief programme through deployment of additional LTE sites as well as accessing additional 3G spectrum.

“In an increasingly digital world, demand for our products and services remains high as we assist in bridging the digital divide and bringing a new way of living to our society.

“Digitalisation is no longer about just efficiency but is now a necessity as we live through the new realities that have been ushered in by the Covid-19 global pandemic,” said Mr Banda.

During the year to February 28, 2021, Econet embarked on several initiatives to support the growth in data traffic and increased LTE/4G data speeds by 50 percent, commissioning 12 new LTE sites countrywide and accessing additional 3G spectrum under the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) Covid-19 relief programme.

The mobile network operator also facilitated the import of low-cost data-capable handsets to ensure data connectivity is accessible across all sectors of society.

The group highlighted the need for enhanced connectivity to back the digitalisation drive that has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Access to foreign currency for upgrades has however, remained a challenge; although the telecoms giant has made strides to ensure connectivity and facilitate e-learning and other economic activities continue via digital platforms.

Said Mr Banda: “Network connectivity plays a critical role in building socio-economic resilience for the country and we remain committed to providing digital solutions to our customers and stakeholders.”

Econet has also indicated it is negotiating with the regulator, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) periodic review of cost models, in line with the obtaining economic environment.

This will enable pricing that is sustainable to both the company and its customers as it thrives to ensure “no Zimbabwean is left behind” in the digital era.

Mr Banda said the company was continuing with its transformation journey to becoming a fully-fledged digital services provider riding on new technologies.

“Our vision is to create a new digital future that leaves no Zimbabwean behind. In this regard we have started exploring new opportunities brought about by recent changes in technology so that Zimbabwe is at the forefront of technological change and advancement,” he said.

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