Econet increases subscriber market share as voice usage drops across the industry

Econet Wireless, the leading telecommunications provider in the country, has increased its subscriber market share to 71%, latest industry figures have shown.

According to the Postal & Telecommunications Sector Performance Report First Quarter 2023 released this week, Econet market share rose by 1.2% up from 69.9% registered in the last quarter of 2022 to 71% in the first quarter of 2021. This was at the expense of NetOne and Telecel, who both lost subscriber market share by 0.7% and 0.5% respectively, in line with the decline in their active subscribers.

Econet’s subscriber growth comes after its active subscribers rose to nearly 10 million customers (9 996 255) in the first quarter of 2023.

The latest report, published by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) revealed that NetOne and Telecel lost 4.5% and 21.1% of their active subscribers to close the period at 3 747 201 and 307 795 subscribers respectively.

“Econet was the only mobile operator to register growth in active subscriptions... Concerningly, Telecel and NetOne’s active subscriptions have been consistently declining over the past five consecutive quarters,” said Potraz in the report.

The total number of active mobile telephone subscriptions declined 1.7% to reach 14 051 251 as of 31 March 2023, from 14 300 790, recorded as of 31 December 2022. As a result, the mobile penetration rate declined by 1.6% to reach 92.6% as of 31 March 2023, from 94.2% recorded as of 31 December 2022.

The report said mobile voice traffic declined by 16% across the mobile industry, to record 2.5 billion minutes in the first quarter of 2023, down from 3 billion minutes recorded in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Potraz noted that the decline in mobile voice traffic may be attributable to the 50% increase in tariffs in February 2023.

“Substitution of traditional voice with Over-the-Top VoIP also plays a significant factor. The continuous decline may also be attributable to the deteriorating quality of service due to the loadshedding resulting in lower call-success ratios,” read part of the report.

In the period under review, mobile Internet and data traffic increased by 12.3% to record 37,690.4 Terabytes from 33,576.4 Terabytes recorded in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Mobile network operators’ revenues increased by 34.8% to $161 billion in the first quarter compared to $119.4 billion in the last quarter of 2022, while operating costs increased by 25.7% to $102.7 billion and capital expenditure rose by 11.4% to $14.2 billion.

“Aggregate operating costs continued to grow by a margin that surpasses growth in aggregate revenue. This indicates that mobile operator operating costs are fast closing in on revenue, which indicates diminishing operator profits,” said Potraz.

According to the industry report, a total of 86 new base stations were deployed in the first quarter of 2023, as compared to 175 base stations deployed in the fourth quarter of 2022.

“The economic environment directly affects the performance of the postal and telecommunication sector,” said Potraz, adding that the inflationary environment, unavailability of credit, reduced consumer spending, inadequate foreign currency amongst other challenges continued to beset the sector.

“The situation has been aggravated by prolonged load-shedding, impacting overall quality of service, and raising the cost-of-service provision. Inadequate foreign currency has affected network expansion and maintenance efforts.”

The industry regulator indicated that unlike other services that may have alternative local supply, the provision of telecommunication relies heavily on imports mainly equipment, software as well as bandwidth.

“The sector should be prioritized in terms of government expenditure, resource mobilisation, foreign currency allocation amongst other issues, to fully realise its role as a key economic enabler,” said Potraz.

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