HARARE - Zimbabwe's 106 percent mobile penetration rate is misleading in relation to connectivity and access as only 60 percent of the population is estimated to have mobile devices, the country’s telecommunications industry regulator says.
Baxton Sirewu, acting director general of the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), said despite the “apparently impressive teledensity rate of 106 percent”, many do not have access to telecommunications services, mainly mobile phones.
“…the figure tends to hide details about a significant number of Zimbabweans who are not yet connected,” he said at a recent Potraz workshop.
“Millions of Zimbabweans are yet to be connected either because there is no coverage in their area or because the services are not affordable,” said Sirewu.
He added: “The teledensity figure is not an accurate measure of the number of Zimbabweans accessing telecommunication services.”
Teledensity is a measure of a country’s active mobile phone SIM cards in use compared to its population.
Sirewu said a mobile network coverage survey by Potraz indicated that 3G connection is not available outside major cities.
“The same tests also showed that GPRS and EDGE are heavily constrained while Wi Max and fixed broadband solutions are largely non-existent outside the main cities and resort towns…We need to leverage on the power of collaboration to deliver broadband to the mass-market,” the acting director general said.
While the country has a 106 percent mobile penetration rate, Potraz noted that a significant number of Zimbabweans have multiple-active mobile SIM cards.
Shingirai Marufu, also from Potraz, recently told an Enterprise Office Communication Summit that most statistics produced were not accurate.
“Although Zimbabwe’s mobile penetration has reached 106 percent, the actual head-count of people in possession of these SIM cards is only 60 percent of the population which translates to 8,4 million people,” he said.
In his Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Statement, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, said about $40 million has been invested in network expansion and fibre optic infrastructure by mobile and fixed operators.
The country has a five-year strategic Information and Communication Technology (ICT) plan, which was meant to increase national teledensity by 10 percent per year, but ends at the close of the year.
This comes as Gallup Business Journal (Gallup), an American business journal, recently released a report which stated that mobile growth in Zimbabwe had recorded an all-time high between 2012 and 2013.
The report further stated that mobile phone growth in Zimbabwe had risen by 54 percent from 2008 to 2013.
According to the same survey, phone growth is also overtaking income growth in Zimbabwe, a country which had 26 percent of households with mobile phones in 2008 and 80 percent in 2013.