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Vandalism piles on pressure for Zimbabwe’s telcos

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Zimbabwe , 21 Jan 2022

In addition to power outages and the requirement that all MNOs phase out physical top up cards, Zimbabwean telcos continue to struggle with increasing incidents of vandalism of base station equipment.

This is placing further strain on scarce foreign currency resources at a time the country and the industry is battling to raise US Dollars said Econet Wireless.

In the latest trading update from the company, released yesterday, Charles Banda, company secretary for Econet, stated: “We also witnessed increased cases of vandalism and theft at our telecommunications tower sites, which is also creating service disruptions. This has put additional pressure on the business to import spare parts using scarce foreign currency to enable us to respond quickly to service outages.”

This was in addition to “persistent power outages (that) continued to adversely affect network availability” and growing instances of network downtime.

Econet is accelerating the installation of solar power solutions, but this increases use of already installed diesel-powered generators and adds to operation costs.

The company said it is “taking measures to address the limitations for customers that are not able to easily access virtual channels”.

It added that data and voice traffic grew by 43% and 6% respectively during the quarter to the end of November compared to the previous contrasting period. It also commissioned 80 new 4G sites as part of its LTE network densification program.

Zimbabwean mobile operators - including state run NetOne and Telecel Zimbabwe - have also been directed to phase out physical airtime top up cards.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe believes airtime distributed through physical cards is being used for fraud and contributing to devaluation of the Zimdollar on the parallel currency markets.

“All mobile network operators were directed to reduce physical airtime sales to 20% of total airtime distribution by the end of January 2022 and to 10% by the end of April 2022,” explained Banda.

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