Demand for mobile Internet in Zimbabwe soars under Covid-19 lockdown

FILE PHOTO: A man checks his mobile phone in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

ZIMBABWE continues to record increases in the usage of internet services spurred by the Covid-19 lockdown measures, which have created higher demand for digital services.

The trend has seen more companies including those that are in the business of courier services reaping benefits of being online as more people subscribe for digital services.

According to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz)’s third quarter 2020 report, mobile internet and data traffic has risen by about 43 percent.

The jump in internet and data usage, said the authority, is an indicator of a huge shift from the conventional communication modes to digital means of doing business.

Due to limited physical interactions, individuals, businesses and Government departments are increasingly using information, communication technologies (ICTs) in making calls, messaging and conferencing.

“Mobile internet and data traffic grew by 43 percent in the third quarter of 2020. Internet and data traffic are expected to continue growing due to the increased adoption of e-learning, telecommuting, and e-conferencing,” Potraz director general, Dr Gift Machengete, said.

“Active internet and data subscriptions grew by 5,6 percent. Growth in active subscriptions is expected in the fourth quarter as consumption at household and industry level improves following the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions on the formal and informal sector.”

Dr Machengete said more than eight million people were active mobile data users. This comes as internet penetration countrywide increased by 3,2 percent to reach 59,9 percent from 56,7 percent recorded in the previous quarter.

However, Potraz has said that the usage of mobile phones and internet has brought down business in fixed telephone lines connectivity.

“Active fixed telephone lines declined by 1,6 percent to record 256 356 from 260 542. The fixed tele-density remained at 1,8 percent,” said the regulator.

“Total mobile voice traffic grew by 18,7 percent to record 1,56 billion minutes in the third quarter of 2020 from 1,31 billion minutes recorded in the previous quarter.

“Fixed voice traffic also increased by 12 percent to record 90,6 million minutes in the third quarter of 2020 from 80,9 million minutes recorded in the second quarter of 2020.

“The bulk of fixed voice traffic was generated by corporate company lines. The growth in traffic is attributable to the up-scaling of business operations and the increased number of workers back at work following the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.”

During the period, the postal and courier services sector recorded an increase of 28,1 percent as 297 680 items were handled in the third quarter, compared to 232 468 items recorded in the second quarter.

“Postal and courier operators still face challenges in channelling items to and from several destinations because of Covid-19 policies in different countries,” he said.

Meanwhile, mobile telephone networks’ revenue grew by 194,7 percent to record $8,9 billion from $3 billion.

However, costs for the sector grew by 23,6 percent to record $2,5 billion from $2,1 billion recorded in the previous quarter.

“Operators in the sector have not been spared by the inflationary environment as evidenced by the rising cost of service provision. The credit crunch as well as foreign currency challenges have negatively affected network expansion and maintenance as spare parts, equipment and vendor support fees require foreign currency,” said Potraz.

“The high cost of International Internet Connectivity remains a challenge as Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, accessing bandwidth from undersea cables via Mozambique and South Africa.” – Herald