Yesterday’s Standard newspaper carried an article on the new telecoms operator, Broadlands, with the title: “New Operator to End TelOne Dominance”. It’s not clear from the article if Broadlands Networks is after a slice of TelOne’s market share in fixed telecommunication services, International bandwidth wholesaling or mobile CMDA services.
It’s hard to imagine a new company striving to dominate the fixed telecoms market as this is clearly a dwindling one with subscribers gradually shifting from fixed to mobile telephony. So the title could just be the author offering his own opinion and not Broadlands’s strategic plan.
TelOne’s CDMA network on the other hand has an insignificant share of the mobile cellular services market so Broadlands would really be after Econet, NetOne and Telecel instead of TelOne. Room for growth in mobile telephone is wide though, given Zimbabwe’s low mobile penetration rate of about 9 mobile subscribers per 100 inhabitants according to the ITU’s 2009 Information Society Statistics. Still, I wouldn’t think of them as ‘ending’ any company’s (Econet’s) dominance in the near future; if at all, I’d give them at least 2 years.
The Internet services industry is fertile for any new player to take on subscribers frustrated by Zimbabwe’s very slow and yet very expensive broadband Internet services. According to the same ITU report, only about 7.8% of Zimbabweans have access to the Internet, so again any new company providing innovative low cost internet connectivity has a ready market of existing Internet users and new sub subscribers.
The article’s ambiguous statements like “One pays US$120 and gets a phone, which one can use for the whole year” and “The phone connects to anywhere in the world where there is a fixed line, according to Siziba” make it hard to understand the exact operations Broadlands Networks will carry out.
Equally confusing is Chemist Siziba’s assertion that “There is no blade of grass that we will not cover in January” as he explains how Broadlands will “cover the whole country”. That the new company will have the whole Zimbabwe covered (whatever communication service it is) by the end of January 2010 is a bit unlikely and we’d love to check back after two months on this very ambitious endeavor.