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Econet voice traffic shows resilience

08 January 2020

The Herald/The Chronicle 

Mobile voice traffic has continued to show resilience in the face of increased competition from messaging platforms and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoiP) with the latest Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) report showing an 8 percent growth in voice traffic for the quarter ended September 2019.

The growth was, however, largely driven by Econet in a year in which, according to the report, other operators struggled to increase call volumes. A few years ago players in the telecoms sector saw their voice call traffic face significant pressure from the new technologies. Econet Wireless Zimbabwe chief executive officer Douglas Mboweni told an analysts’ briefing in November 2014 that the company would adopt a strategy in which it would focus on growing overlay services, apart from voice, to drive revenue growth and margin improvements in the future.

“We had anticipated the trend away from traditional income streams. We then took a strategic decision to steer the business towards innovations that would become new sources of growth for our business. We are beginning to see the fruits of that strategy,” Mr Mboweni said at the time.

These fruits include the successful growth of mobile financial services, to the extent that Econet spun off Cassava Smartech as a standalone listed company in December 2018, which has gone on to be one of the top three counters on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.

But to Econet’s credit, its voice business has remained a fundamental pillar to the company’s revenue streams.  According to the Potraz report, there was an overall 8 percent growth in national mobile voice traffic to 1,4 billion minutes from 1,3 billion for the third quarter to September 2019, with Econet behind this upward trajectory.

“Econet’s market share has been continuously increasing over the year, starting with a market share of 78,8 percent in the first quarter, recording 80,1 percent in the second quarter and 82,3 percent in the third quarter,” according to the Potraz report.

On the other hand, NetOne and Telecel’s market shares have been consistently declining with NetOne’s share declining from 16,3 percent to 15,4 percent between the second quarter and the third quarter while that of Telecel was down from 3,6 percent to 2,3 percent for the same period.

Meanwhile the telecoms industry recorded a 4 percent growth in active mobile subscriptions, from 12,4 million to 12,9 million. This saw the mobile penetration rate increase by 3,4 percentage points from 84,8 percent to 88,2 percent. All the mobile operators recorded growth in active subscriptions.