On the face of it, the Covid-19 lockdown was an inadvertent blessing for Zimbabwe’s telecommunications operators.Mobile internet and data traffic surged by more than half to 10.407 TB in the second quarter of the year from 6.6621 TB in the previous quarter due to the increased adoption of virtual meetings to combat the spread of Covid-19, latest statistics have shown.
With people stuck at home for the five weeks of the hard lockdown from March to june, it would have been easy to think that the likes of Econet, Netone and Telecel would have gained from consumers posting on social media and streaming shows to their phones. Companies, schools and tertiary institutions have adopted e-learning, telecommuting and e-conference as the pandemic restricts physical meetings.
Unlike other parts of the economy, the telecoms sector had an advantage in that under the national disaster regulations, it could continue to operate. Operators also had the advantage of the government giving them temporary access to additional radio spectrum that could facilitate high-speed broadband services.
The operators didn’t have to wait long to see the impact of the lockdown on the demand for data.
In its report for Q2, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) used international internet bandwidth capacity also increased by 2.8% to record 128.173 Mbps from 124.627 Mbps recorded in the previous quarter.
“Internet/ data traffic will continue to grow due to the increased adoption of e-learning telecommuting, and e-conferencing,” Potraz said.
Potraz noted that given the economic environment, customers have been inevitably substituting voice service with cheaper Over the Top services as WhatsApp, wechat etc.
Potraz said. Revenue generated by the mobile telephone networks during the period under review grew by 45.8% to record ZWL$3bn from ZWL$2.1bn. At the same time, total mobile network operating costs grew by 217.7% to record ZWL$16.1bn from ZWL$5.1bn recorded in the previous quarter.
Revenue generated by the fixed telephone network grew by 39.4% to record ZWL$430.4m from ZWL$308.9m while on the other hand fixed network operating costs increased by 44.4% to record ZWL$345.6m from ZWL$239.2m recorded in the previous quarter. Internet access providers’ revenues for the period grew by 52.2% to ZWL$1.15bn from ZWL$754.3m.
Total operating costs grew by 188.4% to record ZWL$11.2bn from ZWL$3.9bn recorded in the first quarter of 2020. Total postal and courier revenue for the period declined by 2.1% to record ZWL$69.4m from ZWL$70.9m due to the decline in mail volumes. On the other hand, total operating costs by postal and courier operators grew by 13% to record ZWL$58.7m from ZWL$51.9m recorded in the first quarter of 2020.