Telecel seeking $200m for network expansion


Mobile network operator Telecel Zimbabwe is seeking $200 million to increase its 3G network coverage and grow subscriber base to 5.5 million by year end.
Telecel is the second largest operator in Zimbabwe after Econet with more than 4.7 million connected subscribers and 2,35 million active subscribers.

Giving oral evidence to the parliamentary portfolio committee on Communication, technology, postal and courier services, Telecel general manager Angeline Vere said negotiations with banks were already underway.

"Our network coverage is not where we would want it to be so we are looking at a further investment of $200 million. This investment should take us to a 5,5 million subscriber network. our switching capacity at the moment is 5 million and by the end of the year we should be at 5.5 million. By end of year we are anticipating that our active subscriber base will be at 3.3 million. We are also looking at increasing our 3G reach work on our fibre optic connectivity is progressing," she said.

She said Telecel currently has 299 3G base stations across the country and the company would expand the 3G reach to more centres not already covered while working on the 4G network. She added that mobile operators were losing revenue to traffic thieves who re-route calls to gadgets specifically created for that purpose.

"These people buy sim cards from all operators and use a system called a Sim box which allows them to work as a mobile operator. So when someone calls from South Africa, instead of that call going to Telecel, it is directed to that Sim box first then rerouted to Telecel. To us it reflects a local number calling another local number so it is charged at that rate and these people get to keep the rest of the money that should have been charged for international calls," she said.

She said the individuals involved were working with other unlicensed operators in different countries who helped them to steal traffic.

"We need to set up a taskforce that includes the police and unmask these people because not only are they stealing from mobile network operators but they are also stealing from the country since they do not pay any fees or taxes," she added.

Speaking on the issue of infrastructure sharing among operators, Vere said Government should put in place legislation that compels mobile phone operators to share their infrastructure.