Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, which according to industry data controls a commanding 98% of the LTE data customer market share, has announced a major data network upgrade that will see the mobile network market leader achieve 100% 3G coverage across the country by the end of this year.
Announcing the developments at the company’s Msasa head office in Harare yesterday, Econet Chief Executive Officer Mr Douglas Mboweni said the upgrade exercise had already started.
“The upgrade started in March this year, at the beginning of our new financial year, and should be completed by the end of this calendar year”, said Mr Mboweni.
“We are essentially ensuring that each and every one of our existing 2G sites countrywide – in towns and in rural areas – are upgraded to 3G sites” he said, adding that the upgrade had already begun in parts of the country.
“Matabeleland, Bulawayo and Harare provinces are now already complete, with all sites in these provinces on 3G as we speak,” he said.
“We are pleased to let our customers know that in the coming few months, accessing our Smart Data Network from anywhere in the country will be so much easier, particularly in the rural and farming communities” said Mr Mboweni.
Econet Wireless has the widest geographical mobile network coverage in Zimbabwe, covering 82% of the population.
The latest data from the industry regulator POTRAZ (Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe) shows that Econet has a total of 4,092 base stations (or 52.2% share of total mobile infrastructure), in comparison to industry peers NetOne, which has a total of 2,691 (or 34.5%), and Telecel, with 1,025 (13.2%) base stations.
The company leads the country’s three mobile network operators (MNOs) in data network coverage, with more coverage than the other two MNOs put together. It has 1,192 3G base stations (51.2%), compared to NetOne’s 771 3G base stations (33.1%) and Telecel’s 364 3G base stations (15.6%).
Econet, which reported 10.2 million connected customers at the end of February 2017, also leads in LTE (or 4G) network coverage, with 499 LTE sites (63.7%) to NetOne’s 284 LTE sites (36.3%). It supports 269.000 LTE customers on its LTE infrastructure, compared with NetOne, which supported 2,165 LTE customers as at the end of March 2017.
According to the POTRAZ report, Telecel has not yet deployed LTE technology. The MNO was recently acquired by the government.
Confirming the Econet upgrade, Mr Kezito Makuni, the company’s Technical Director, said the upgrade exercise would see Econet cover most of the country’s population with 3G technology.
“Upon completion, we will have covered close to 82 percent of the population with fast and reliable 3G and LTE coverage” said Mr Makuni.
“Our customers will be able to enjoy our data products and services at much faster access and browsing speeds wherever they are and wherever they go in Zimbabwe,” he said.
A 3G (or Third Generation) data network is the typical mobile broadband network with Internet download speeds of up to 100 times that of a 2G data network (GPRS or EDGE network), and it works best on smartphones.
“With most populated areas covered, going forward we will be focusing on the customer experience of our subscribers, ensuring that they get impeccable quality of service wherever they are”, said Mr Makuni.
Econet has invested over US$1.3 billion in the Zimbabwean economy since 2009. It has created over 20,000 jobs directly and indirectly, through resellers and distributors of its wide variety of products and services, that include, among others, voice products, data services and EcoCash – the popular mobile money transfer service.