Econet blames power outages after network goes down, causing massive disruption

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HARARE – Millions of Econet customers faced utter disruption on Saturday after a power-related fault left them unable to make phone calls, use data services or make electronic payments.

Services were disrupted just before 10AM and were not restored until 4PM.

The disruption the downtime brought once again illustrated Zimbabwe’s dependence on the country’s biggest mobile phone network which enjoys a near monopoly on electronic payments with its EcoCash service. With very limited Zimbabwe dollars in circulation, over 90 percent of transactions in Zimbabwe are completed on electronic platforms, which are dominated by Econet.

In a brief statement released after services were restored, Econet did not say what caused the downtime.

“We sincerely apologise for the intermittent service experienced on Voice, Data, SMS and EcoCash services today. We are glad to advise that service has been restored in most areas. Any inconvenience caused is sincerely regretted,” the company said.

A spokesman reached by reporters later explained that the downtime had been caused by a generator failure following a power cut.

“Our generators failed to kick-in following a ZESA power outage, resulting in an automatic system shutdown to protect critical network operations centre equipment,” the spokesman said.

He said the increased frequency and protracted duration of power outages in the country “has inevitably exposed our network equipment to damage, resulting in the increased incidence of network faults and downtimes, among other challenges.”

The company’s founder, Strive Masiyiwa, revealed in a Facebook post that mobile phone companies need about 10MW of power daily to keep their base stations working. Expensive diesel-powered generators have kept the base stations operational as substitute power as the country experiences power outages lasting up to 15 hours on some days.