Daily News  :: Southern Africa

Zimbabwe phone firm pumps billions into expansion

Published: 16-JAN-07

Harere - Econet Wireless which has invested more than Z$90bn during 2006 to expand its network capacity from 500 000 to 800 000 has said it has taken a leap of faith to invest in a country where the economic fundamentals are working against the company because of high inflation and a weakening currency.

CEO Douglas Mboweni said that the capital expenditure, probably the single largest by a local company in the past year, is evidence of the long-term commitment by the largest mobile cellular operator to the future of Zimbabwe and �will serve to confirm by deeds our patriotic commitment to our country�.

�We have invested more than Z$90bn to expand our capacity. As previously stated, this expansion was designed to give us room to release an additional 300 000 lines, which we started releasing on a phased and monitored basis late in 2006. Regrettably, as we are about to enter our closed reporting period, we can�t comment further on subscriber numbers.�

He said the company has spent money on new network equipment as well as construction works, in addition to upgrading network facilities to cope with the increased customer base. �While in real terms, the economic fundamentals are working against us, we have taken a leap of faith based on a long-term perspective about our country,� Mboweni said. He confirmed that work on the launch of the 3G service was also progressing and the market will be advised of any material developments as and when they occur.

Mboweni also said work is ongoing to further strengthen the network and reduce congestion. The bulk of the congestion was due to the interconnection with other telecom networks providers who are also working on improving their networks. Mr. Mboweni said it had to be borne in mind that the upgrading and expansion of the Econet network was being done on a �live� network and therefore there might be levels of disruptions although Econet engineers, working together with their counterparts from Ericsson, have been making all efforts to ensure that these disruptions are minimized. �We regret however customers might still experience some inconvenience during this upgrade but we are confident of network stability in the near future.� Business in Africa Online

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