Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
NETONE will soon embark on the third phase of its capital expansion project at a cost of nearly half a billion dollars, as it emerged it is finalising the second phase where it is investing $218 million.
Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira said in a recent interview that NetOne would invest about $500 million in the third phase of the projects targeting latest broadband technology and increased rural coverage.
Minister Mandiwanzira was responding to enquiries by The Herald Business on plans the Government had in store for NetOne given ongoing efforts to secure $200 million funding support for Telecel Zimbabwe.
In terms of Telecel Zimbabwe, the Government is rolling out an ambitious investment programme for the company after acquiring a controlling 60 percent stake previously held by Vimpelcom of Netherlands.
“NetOne has already been receiving huge Government support. As you know, they are now concluding implementation of a $218 million project to increase broadband coverage as well as services they offer,” he said.
“That was the China Eximbank funding. This has been ongoing for a couple of years now. They are now just concluding implementation of the project and they are now looking at going into the third phase with an investment of nearly half a billion dollars,” he added.
Phase two, which had an initial completion deadline of September 2016 targeted 2 300 stations while an additional 3 000 would be constructed in 2017 under phase three of a $485 million investment.
Phase two of the project saw NetOne having the widest fourth generation (4G) technology, Long Term Evolution, while the company is targeting doubling its subscriber base to 8 million by end of 2017.
NetOne targeted that the projects would increase the company’s subscriber base from about 4,3 million to at least five million by end of September 2016 and boost revenues which stood at $48,5 million.
NetOne acting chief executive Brian Mutandiro said last year that the funding was being accessed from Chinese president Xi Jinping’s $60 billion Development Projects Fund for African countries announced last year in South Africa at the China-Africa conference.
According to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe’s fourth quarter performance report for 2016, NetOne was the second largest mobile network operator with a total of 5,8 million subscribers, behind Econet Wireless at 10 million.
Based on the active mobile subscriptions Econet had 49,4 percent market share while NetOne and Telecel had 36,6 percent and 14 percent respectively.
The information from Potraz also shows that Econet Wireless has the widest 2G, 3G and LTE coverage in the country. At one point, NetOne became the smallest of the three mobile network operators despite being the oldest of them all.