Zimbabwe: Mobile Networks Reap Increased Data Gains During Lockdown

Econet Wireless offices in Harare (file photo).
23 September 2020

Strict enforcement of Covid-19 lockdown regulations during the second quarter of 2020 increased mobile data usage to record levels and sustained a 45.8 percent revenue increase to ZWL$3 billion from ZWL$2.1 billion recorded in previous quarter for the county's mobile network operators, a latest sectorial report shows.

During the period, other revenue heads such as mobile voice traffic sustained a major decline due to the deteriorating economic environment and depleting income levels.

According to the 2020 Second Quarter, Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) Report, mobile data and internet traffic grew by an unprecedented 56.2 percent to reach 10 407 terabytes (TB) from 6 661 TB recorded in first quarter.

"The growth in mobile internet and data usage is attributable to increased telecommunicating by the workforce due to Covid-19 restrictions," said POTRAZ.

Beginning of April, Zimbabwe enforced one of the strictest Lockdown restrictions in the region which resulted in the shutting down of the entire economy for much of the second quarter.

White collar professionals were forced to work from their homes through the internet and data, a case still prevalent up to this date.

In-bundle data usage grew from 91.8 percent to 94.1 percent as customers chose to maximize their utility with the cheaper promotional bundles instead of out-of-bundle data rates.

Total mobile network revenue grew by 45.8 percent to record ZWL 3 billion from ZWL 2.1 billion, said the report.

Econet continued to dominate market share of internet and data traffic with 60.8 percent while Netone followed at 38.1 percent and Telecel at 1.1 percent.

Despite commendable data usage, the quarter saw mobile voice traffic decline 2.1 percent as compared to previous quarter.

Active mobile telephone subscriptions also declined 6.7 percent to 12.8 million subscribers as at 30 June 2020 from 13.7 million in March.

"Overall decline in national voice traffic is attributable to the decline in active subscriptions. In-bound and out-bound roaming traffic recorded huge decline rates of 66.5 percent and 81.2 percent, respectively, this is attributable to reduced inter-county movement due to lockdown restrictions in light of Covid-19," said Potraz.

Mobile money subscriptions declined with only Netone's OneMoney recording growth of 60.8 percent.

Econet's Ecocash, which is the country's largest mobile money platform contracted by 7.6 percent while Telecel's Telecash shrinked by 34 percent.

The deactivation of agent lines in May this year on suspicion that they were engaged in illicit money transactions took a knock on Ecocash subscriptions.

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