Mr Atwell Mukusha – President, Computer Society of Zimbabwe (CSZ) and Chairman, Computer Suppliers Association of Zimbabwe (COMSA) 2nd Runner Up Top ICT Businessman of the Year 2011 at ICT Achievers Awards 2011. The Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector is one of the fastest growing in Zimbabwe. Fuelled by heavy investments, telecommunication infrastructures have improved drastically. Over the past five years, Zimbabweans have embraced ICT innovations fast especially in the mobile telecommunications and in the ICT segments with our teledensity rising to 74%. Zimbabwe’s tele-density rose to 74.7% as 2011 came to a close. Mobile phone subscriber statistics we received from the Post and Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) recently show that all mobile phone operators registered an increase in subscribers since the last release of stats in September 2011. A country’s tele-density measures the number of active mobile phone SIM cards and landlines as a percentage of the country’s total population. The next wave that will continue to hit Zimbabwe will include new infrastructures such as broadband fibre optic cables and data centres, telecoms added value services and ICT innovations. Here is a review of 2011 and key trends to prepare for 2012.
1. Zimbabwe now officially a new emerging market thanks to ICT demand
Over the past 12 months, there has been continued activity and interest in Zimbabwe despite increasing competition, particularly in mobile markets. For example, we have seen Huawei, ZTE, Liquid Telecom heavily investing in the mobile infrastructure by making key acquisitions in the mobile sector.
The telecoms and internet sectors in Zimbabwe have come out of 2011 with greater confidence but there's that nagging feeling that things will never be the same as they were in the last two years when infrastructure was a hinderance.
2. More telecoms infrastructure investments
2012 will see renewed telecoms infrastructure investments, not only in mobile and satellite but also in fixed infrastructure including national fibre backbones and local data centres to meet growing demand.
Since the connectivity to the submarime cables in 2010, capacity sales on these fibre-optic cables linking Zimbabwe with the global world, have outstripped initial forecasts. As a result, WIOCC, the largest shareholder in the submarine cables and is owned by 14 African Telcos including TelOne, has announced that the system will be upgraded in 2012 to more than double its current capacity. Operators such as Econet Wireless Zimbabwe will invest additional money on expanding and upgrading their networks.
Operators of all kinds ramped up their bandwidth requirements considerably in 2011, some by as much as ten times as they finally got their hands on even cheaper bandwidth on Africa's east coast. So, for those selling international bandwidth, 2011 was inevitably a somewhat quieter year. The steady downward cascade of retail internet prices was slower than might have been anticipated but it's begun to happen.
3. New race for spectrum ownership
Another trend to watch is the start of a potential war for spectrum. Several telecoms licences need to be renewed and POTRAZ our regulator will start to call for bids. However, the market has become much more competitive, margins have dropped and we hope that licence fees will reflect this difficult context. Particular pressure is coming from both the introduction of WiMAX and before too long LTE. (LTE represents a powerful step forward in mobile network technology. Offering 4G capacity and a streamlined all-IP network architecture)
4. More mergers and acquisition and partnerships
2011 saw some interesting visits by Multinational companies in Zimbabwe including Microsoft, franchises being run by local companies for Samsung, and others. Zimbabwean operators have remained focused on cost control which has driven some cost...