The recent 2015 half year results published by Econet Wireless gave a peek into the sort of state the company is in right now.
The fact that Econet happens to control a huge part of the market in terms of subscriber numbers (it has 9,2 million subscribers) and product placement for both telecoms and financial services (thanks to the mobile money service EcoCash) also gave an indication of how those two clusters are performing in the economy.
However, one other number that stood out for us related to Econet’s broadband services. According to to the analysts’ presentation which accompanied the results, Econet has 7 million broadband subscribers. Econet says this number is an improvement from the 4,7 million broadband subscribers that the operator had in the same period last year.
Fact or fiction?
Most people who’ve been following local telecoms will be quick to dismiss this number as probably a case of gross exaggeration. We wouldn’t blame them either. That number represents 76% of Econet’s subscriber totals. Besides, in its previous annual financial report some months ago, Econet referenced a smartphone penetration of 20% on its network.
If, however, you consider other Econet broadband subscribers that are not necessarily tapped into mobile broadband, there could be some logic to it all. Sure, the mental arithmetic doesn’t necessarily add up, but there are strong numbers that can be included in that total.
Based on that logic, this 7 million could be a representation of all the broadband subscribers that Econet has under its name through services like Connected Car and Connected Home as well as every SIM card that has been used for broadband use before, which might not be active right now. It could also include all subsidiaries like Liquid Telecom and ZOL which also offer broadband and have their own user totals.
Sadly the information provided by Econet Wireless when we sought clarification didn’t fully highlight where this total came from. The operator responded by saying,
This we can’t discuss due to competitive reasons, suffice to say we are happy with the growth of our broadband business which is now the largest in the country.
The bigger implications of these numbers is with the change in the rate of internet use in Zimbabwe as well as the hard-to-verify figure for national smartphone penetration. The industry regulator, POTRAZ, hasn’t released figures on smartphone penetration, but it does release quarterly figures on internet connections.
According to its last count, the figures for the first quarter of 2015 on Zimbabwean internet use showed a 44.3% internet penetration and 5,8 million internet subscribers. With these latest figures presented by Econet on its own broadband use showing a more significant use of internet services, POTRAZ’s next numbers should therefore reflect this increase.