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Econet invests US$66 million in network upgrade

06 June 2023

ECONET Wireless Zimbabwe (EWZ) says it invested US$66 million in the financial year to February 28, 2023, as part of its network modernization program which it said had been hampered by several years of under-investment.

Mr James Myers, the chairperson of the Group said in a statement accompanying the latest full-year 2023 financial results that network expansion and upgrades remain imperative to support business sustainability. 

“In order to stay abreast of technological advancements and better serve our customers, we added twelve (12) 5G base stations during the year.

“We remain the only network in the country with 5G technology. We are the only network certified to support Apple devices,” he said.

He added the Group’s 5G and network modernization rollout plan will increase access to newer technologies such as virtual, augmented, and mixed reality, ultra-high-definition video (UHD) streaming, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

“To meet the growing demand for both voice and data traffic, we commissioned eighty (80) new base stations providing additional coverage and capacity.

“We commenced the deployment of a new modern core network with new generation cloud capabilities.

“As part of this network modernization effort, we also deployed state-of-the-art data center infrastructure to ensure high availability of the network,” said Mr Myers.

During the period under review, Myers said Econet started deploying a new digital Know Your Customer (KYC) platform on a phased approach. The platform leverages digital identification and will centralize group KYC capabilities, distribution, and other partner management services. 

All digital ID subscribers will be more able to do more self-service activities on our group platforms. As we continued to drive digitalisation and digital adoption in line with our digital service provider (DSP) strategy, the business continued to promote self-help and self-care platforms for the convenience of customers,” said Myers.

Myers said the Group re-launched an enhanced Yamurai (WhatsApp Bot) and increased the capacity for self-care and social media platforms.

The contact centre also adopted a new automatic call distribution (ACD) system, which enables the company to handle more customers efficiently and effectively.

However, Mr Myers said the rapid depreciation of the local currency and exchange rate volatilities remain the biggest challenge to the company.

During the period, the Zimbabwe dollar shed by 85 percent, one of the highest depreciation since the reintroduction of the embattled currency in 2019.

Myers said this was further exacerbated by the national grid failure and an unfavorable tariff system which put immense pressure on the operating costs.

“The prevailing tariff environment is a threat to the long-term viability of the local telecoms sector and curtails the ability of the sector to invest appropriately to meet customer demand, thereby undermining the quality of service.”

Resultantly, the Group incurred exchange losses of $77 billion which translated to 23 percent of revenue against a prior year comparative rate of 6 percent of revenue.

Going forward, Myers said exploiting 4G and 5G network-enabled opportunities will be key to keeping abreast with emerging global trends and improving service delivery.