Broadband market expected to grow on the back of new fibre infrastructure
This annual report provides a comprehensive overview of trends and developments in Zimbabwe’s telecommunications market.
Subjects covered include:
The impact of the economic and political crisis;
Market and industry overviews;
Government policies affecting the telecoms industry;
Market liberalisation and regulatory issues;
Telecoms operators – privatisation, acquisitions, new licences;
Major players (fixed, mobile and broadband);
Mobile voice and data markets;
Average Revenue per User (ARPU);
Convergence (voice/data, fixed/wireless/mobile);
Internet and broadband development and growth, including 3G mobile;
Broadband services and pricing trends.
Zimbabwe’s economy has contracted for ten years in a row under gross mismanagement by its political leaders, sending annual inflation to an unprecedented rate of several billion percent and the exchange rate of the Zimbabwe dollar to more than 50 billion per US dollar. In 2009 the government finally allowed foreign currencies as alternative legal tender, which had already been the unofficial fuel of the local economy for years.
The ‘dollarisation’ has done miracles for the country’s telecom industry: Network operators, now able to bill their customers in hard currency, regained a certain degree of planning security and access to funding for network expansions. Hundreds of millions of US dollars are now being invested into the three mobile networks – Econet, NetOne and Telecel Zimbabwe. Mobile penetration has increased more fivefold within three years to reach around 75% in early 2012, despite the fact that consumer prices initially rose – artificial price caps in local currency had meant that prices had previously been extremely low when converted into hard currencies. As a consequence, the average minutes of use on Zimbabwe’s mobile networks were ironically among the highest in the world, and the networks were congested. Prices are now more in line with other African markets again.
The normalisation of Zimbabwe’s economy is reflected in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) forecast of continuous GDP growth at around 3%, following a spike to 9% in 2010.
NetOne’s parent, TelOne (formerly PTC) still holds a de-facto monopoly on fixed-line services in the country. The government is planning to privatise up to 60% of TelOne and NetOne, either through an IPO or a strategic partnership with a foreign investor.
A second national operator (SNO), TeleAccess was licensed in 2002 but had its licence withdrawn in 2005 due to non-performance resulting from difficulties to raise funding. Another licensed operator, Afritell (a public-private partnership) also failed in bringing competition to the fixed-line sector.
Despite the limited fixed-line infrastructure, Internet usage in Zimbabwe has continued to rise. In an environment of strictly controlled traditional media, citizens turned to the Internet for independent information and communication. However, limitations of international bandwidth for the landlocked country have affected development of the sector. New fibre optic links are now being deployed to improve international connectivity via neighbouring countries with access to international submarine fibre optic cables. However, prices for broadband services have remained high.
The ISP market is reasonably competitive with six major players. Eight companies have been licensed to provide VoIP telephony services. Several data carriers have been licensed and are rolling out national fibre backbone networks. ISPs have begun rolling out wireless broadband access networks, and the first 3G mobile broadband service in the country was overwhelmed by demand within weeks after launch.
New domestic and international fibre connections;
Internet and broadband pricing trends – ADSL, 3G mobile, WiMAX, WiFi;
TelOne, NetOne privatisation planned;
New ICT Bill;
Hundreds of millions of US dollars in network expansions.
Estimated market penetration rates in Zimbabwe’s telecoms sector – end-2012
Market | Penetration rate
Mobile | 85%
Fixed | 3%
Internet | 12%
(Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)
Companies covered in this report:
Zimbabwe Online (ZOL)
Zimbabwe Internet Service Provider Association (ZISPA)
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