Econet Accelerates Network Expansion and Modernisation

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HARARE, Zimbabwe – Listed mobile network operator Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is ramping up its network expansion and upgrade efforts to enhance connectivity, boost profitability, and fend off competition.

During the fiscal year ending February 29, 2024, the company embarked on a comprehensive network modernisation and strategic investment drive, aiming to improve service quality and expand coverage.

Econet’s chairperson, Dr. James Myers, emphasized the company’s commitment to continuous investment in network infrastructure to meet customer demands and stay aligned with global trends, underscoring the vision of a digitally connected Zimbabwe.

“Our strategic partnerships with key equipment vendors have enabled us to accelerate our network modernisation after several years of underinvestment due to limited foreign currency availability,” Dr. Myers said in a performance update for the year.

Econet has upgraded over 1,012 sites with 4G high-capacity base stations, primarily in Harare, Bulawayo, and the Manicaland region. The company plans to install an additional 550 base stations nationwide to further improve service coverage and quality.

This development follows the government’s allocation of spectrum within the 700MHz frequency band through the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), which will extend the reach of existing base stations to underserved areas. Consequently, Econet has added more than 50 new base station sites, enhancing network capacity and reliability.

“This investment has enhanced our quality of service and increased network coverage, ensuring that our customers enjoy superior connectivity,” Dr. Myers explained.

Econet has also integrated artificial intelligence (AI) into its operations to boost efficiency and enhance customer experiences. AI algorithms have improved customer segmentation and personalized services, driving increased customer activity. The company has incorporated AI-driven recommendation engines and predictive models into daily operations to enhance usage and revenue.

“This has enabled us to deliver a remarkable 47 percent growth in usage in the voice segment,” Dr. Myers noted.

To mitigate challenges from erratic power supplies, Econet has invested in renewable energy solutions to maintain service continuity. The deployment of green power solutions has been crucial in ensuring high uptime for most base stations.

The network upgrade and expansion come as Starlink prepares to enter Zimbabwe, increasing pressure on existing telecom operators to innovate and stay competitive.

Financially, Econet reported a 133 percent revenue increase to $14.8 trillion, driven by a 34 percent rise in voice volume and a 36 percent increase in data volume. Network modernisation and cost optimisation strategies contributed to a profitability margin exceeding 45 percent. However, local currency depreciation resulted in exchange losses of $3.2 trillion, equivalent to 22 percent of revenue.

Despite these challenges, the retirement of foreign currency-denominated debentures in October 2023 significantly reduced Econet’s exposure to exchange rate fluctuations, positively impacting profitability. The company remains optimistic about boosting profitability in the current financial year and beyond.

Econet is also hopeful that the introduction of the Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG) currency will bring economic stability and improve financial planning and reporting. Additionally, the company plans to leverage its 5G network service to unlock new opportunities, enhance operational efficiencies, and improve customer service delivery.

“We are looking to scale up our 5G penetration to unlock new opportunities, leverage on artificial intelligence and process automation to improve operational efficiencies and customer service delivery,” Dr. Myers concluded. – Sunday Mail