The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) released the sector performance report for the third quarter of 2021. One of the areas of concern is that of money, money, money.
Mobile operator revenues up
In the 3 months from July through September, the combined revenue for the three mobile operators grew by 15.8%. Rising from ZWL$16.9 billion in the preceding quarter to ZWL$19.5 billion.
The three main revenue drivers for mobile operators are voice, data and sms. Those three are responsible for close to 90% of all revenues. In Q3 2021, both voice (19.3%) and data (10.4%) traffic increased, leading to increased revenue.
This was to be expected as some businesses in the economy have normalised working from home. This paired with periodical limitations to in-person socialising has meant a constant increase in demand for voice and data services.
Data revenue growing faster
Just a year ago, in Q3 2020, data contributed only 28.3% to total revenues. In Q3 2021, that contribution is up to 38.9%. This has been the trend for years but has accelerated during this pandemic. Voice on the other hand has seen it’s contribution fall from 48.1% in Q3 2020 to 42% this year.
You will have noticed that data is now just 3.2% short beating out voice calls as the top earner.
Costs are growing even faster
Zimbabwe remains a hostile economy to operate a business in. So, it comes as no surprise that operating costs increased in Q3 2021. However, it may be a bit surprising to realise that costs grew by 40.9% as opposed to the 15.8% growth in revenue.
Operating costs grew from ZWL$8.9 billion in Q2 to $12.5 billion in Q3. The hyperinflationary economy with its depreciating Zimdollar and forex shortages presents a tough challenge when trying to rein in costs. Getting spares and maintaining their infrastructure when most of these spares can only be found outside the country means rising costs.
Power cuts mean base stations have to be powered by diesel generators and that’s more costly than electricity from the grid.
That’s not to mention the bandwidth costs that accompany the increased data usage we were celebrating. Or the staff costs that cannot be meaningfully reduced until robots take over most of our jobs. To note though is that depreciation is responsible for a significant portion of these operating costs. After all, equipment does wear and tear when in use and thus loses value.
In absolute numbers, the surplus of revenue over costs (a gross profit of sorts) was $8 billion in Q2 and fell to $7 billion in Q3.
How the different mobile operators are performing
In this report, POTRAZ did not disclose how the individual mobile operators are performing. We can however assume Telecel is still struggling and that Econet is still king when it comes to revenue share.
Econet, being a listed company, releases financial statements and we saw how they performed here. Hence the assumption they still command most of the revenue in the industry.