TelOne to become Zimbabwe’s 4th mobile operator

Nigel Gambanga Avatar

4 years ago, the local telecoms industry regulator, POTRAZ, did something that doesn’t happen too often; it issued a mobile network operator’s licence. This time it was to the State-owned fixed telecoms operator, TelOne.

Not much has been said about that licence, or any significant action taken about, until now. It turns out that TelOne now wants to make use of the licence by pursuing a partnership with another state-owned mobile operator, NetOne.

An article in the Herald quotes the CEO of TelOne, Chipo Mtasa, pointing out how this is the best way for TelOne to activate this licence because of its limited financial resources.

Beyond the intriguing possibility of a new mobile operator entering the market right now, there are a couple other things that make Mtasa’s statements all the more striking.

This collaborative brilliance that TelOne is seeking out with NetOne and other telecoms operators sounds a lot like the State-owned telecoms operators’ sharing model that the Minister of ICT Supa Mandiwanzira mentioned last week. 

The fact that TelOne is highlighting this move in the midst of a 90-day ultimatum on infrastructure sharing points a lot to the possibilities that the State sees in a shared or converged approach to Telecoms.

It’s easy to see why TelOne, which has displayed an impressive turnaround and is setting the pace for other state-owned telecoms concerns as well as private providers, is probably the best player in the government’s portfolio take the lead in a State-owned telecoms Voltron.

Besides a reinvention of its business model to become an internet company more than a fixed telco, TelOne also has a significant investment in telecoms infrastructure, something that would likely provide some advantage as it figures out its place in the mobile telecoms hierarchy.

The question though, is whether or not TelOne, as the turnaround kid in telecoms, will be able to navigate the increasingly challenging mobile telecoms arena.

This whole idea might be coming on the back of an infrastructure debate, and the powers that be might be looking at the huge advantages that come from synergies around this, but the real competition is in the rollout of the right services and building customer loyalty. It’s no longer about fibre, base stations or pylons. Figuring this out will be TelOne’s biggest challenge as a new operator.

All this casts another cloud of State disapproval on NetOne. A management shake-up at NetOne has been on the cards for a while, and Mandiwanzira who’s also cracked the whip at the regulator POTRAZ, has been explicit about the need for results-oriented management, something that NetOne hasn’t been too good at.


  1. macd chip

    I do not see the logic in this! Two companies owned by one State competing for the same space, same clients. What benefit does it bring? These two companies are also run from the same ministry with same strategic view, unless if they are to say there is split view or groups within the ministry.

    Why waste resources by replicating same failures Netone has on. We now Netone borrowed a lot of money to expand its business, state guaranteed for that loan, is Telone also going to borrow for the same expansion reasons and state also guaranteeing for the loans?

    How about people they are going to employ in both entities, Marketing people, accounts, engineers, etc all drawing salaries from the same limited gvt resources. Is this a way of creating jobs for the boys??

    Why not just merger the two with Netone loosing its whole board members and CEOs because obviously they have been sleeping on the job whilst their competitors were running away with success.

    But we know Mandiwanzira is not going to fire anyone there because he will be stepping on big man toes. If tries it l bet a cabinet reshuffle will on the way with him at the very top lists of being reposted

  2. Santoga

    Interesting times! I thought NetOne was an off-shoot of Telone. Honestly, it does not make any strategic sense to create a new MNO in the form of TelOne. If they want synergies then its better to streamline the current structures and form one BIG Telecoms enterprise with TelOne as HQ and NetOne as a Divison. Strategy will be directed from HQ whilst NetOne will implement and get results albeit with a leaner and downgraded executive team!

    1. ic0n1c

      I second that!

  3. Anonymous

    the thing here is not having many names on one thing .ruther astrategic alliance is the way forward.Net on is a bud off Tel If its not surviving without the stem,its ruther wise to assimilate it back into the mother then work from ther

  4. Anonymous

    whoever brought the unbundling of these entities had a hidden agenda,let him swallow his hot potatoes.

  5. Tendai Maguwu

    When Powertel did a bit of re-branding and re-positioning in 2014 there was talk of it as the fourth MNO. What is the correct position?

  6. gary

    Reason behind all this Sharing garbage… Let all the other 2 failures and Telone Mobile suck off Econet. Stand by your GUNS and REFUSE Econet. The Govt sucked off MDC and then gave them the Boot when Zim + / – got back on track.

  7. fourwallsinaroom

    I see this as more of an evolution of the Tel*One CDMA platform which for the most part at the moment is behind the scenes. I am sure Telko did this with 8ta in South Africa and it does produce some interesting products. I for one have always said, if I could have one account to rule them all for internet access that would be great. What do I mean, well assume I have Tel*one infinity a 10Gb add on for my mobile Tel*one sim would be great. ZOL is doing something similar with the Fibroniks and ZOL spot, close but no cigar. My argument is if I have unlimited access at home, I am going to download that video, update etc. either way. The only difference is the last mile cost, so my ADSL last mile is probably closer to $3-5 whereas 1Gb of last mile on UMTS is probably in the region of $20. Now of course net*one owns base stations already so that last mile is probably less than that. Point is when I pull data down via Seacom, Wacs, Easy… if i have paid to do it at home why should i pay on the go as well?

  8. Noteasilyfooled

    More Jobs for the people thats all we want

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