Zimbabwean mobile service provider Telecel expects to have 85 percent network coverage of the country’s population by the end of this year and 90 percent by the end of next year. These are good coverage figures for any country, Telecel Zimbabwe chief executive Francis Mawindi told a press conference in Harare.
He said the company was on an aggressive network expansion drive.
“By the end of the year we expect to have completed the installation of base stations at more than 200 new sites, bringing to more than 575 the number of base station sites we have altogether,” he said.
In addition to the geographical expansion of the network, Telecel had increased capacity in areas where there had been increased demand for its voice and data services, he said.
The company had installed back-up batteries and generators so coverage continued when there were mains power failures. It was also implementing back-up transmission links to ensure that a stand-by link could be used should a link fail.
He said Telecel was also expanding its retail network. By the end of the year it expected to have increased the number of retail outlets it had from 12 to 18. More new outlets were planned for next year.
Mawindi briefed journalists on various developments that had been taking place at Telecel and on its future plans. He said as of the end of August, Telecel had about 2,2 million active subscribers. By the end of the year it expects this number to increase to between 2,6 and 2,7 million.
He said Telecel had installed a new intelligent network (IN) management system that would enable it to provide its customers with more new and advanced value added services.
There are also plans to open a new third generation technology call centre that would have an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) facility, as well as the capacity to deal quickly with customer queries - whether they were made over the phone or via messaging, text message or email.
Mawindi came out in support of the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority’s wish to see mobile phone networks share passive infrastructure.
“We have long desired to see such sharing of infrastructure on a reciprocal basis. We believe this would have obvious benefits for all three networks. It would minimise capital expenditure and have a positive effect on capital performance, operating expenses and indeed on all key performance indicators.
“It would provide a more stable cost structure. Telecel would like to be able to channel such cost savings to network expansion and a further lowering of our prices,” he said.
Mawindi said all Telecel’s key targets for the year had either been met or would be met before the end of the year.
These included rebranding the network, mitigating the effects of power disruptions through back-up initiatives, expanding the network into rural areas and service points that remained uncovered, increasing Telecel’s retail presence to bring its business closer to its customers, establishing a new call centre, installing a new intelligent network platform and providing more value-added products.
He emphasised Telecel’s commitment to continuing to make affordable mobile communications widely available.
After detailing some of the sponsorships and donations Telecel provides, Mr Mawindi said Telecel saw its major exercise of corporate social responsibility being its provision of universal access to mobile telecommunications and the benefits that flow from that for each person and for society as a whole.
“We believe we have gone a long way towards making universal access to mobile telecommunications a reality.
“I’m sure you noticed how, after Telecel slashed the price of SIM cards and handsets, even the lowest paid people acquired for the first time their own cellphones.
“Now virtually every adult and many children in urban areas have their own cellphones. By expanding our network, we hope to see this trend continue to spread in rural areas as well,” he said.
Mawindi, who was appointed in July as the company’s chief executive after he had spent almost ten years abroad pursuing postgraduate studies and working at a senior level in the United States for several large telecommunications companies, said he was glad to be back home and able to contribute to the development of the mobile communications sector in Zimbabwe and the country’s economy.
“My vision is for Telecel to become the most innovative and pioneering communications company of choice in Zimbabwe and the region, a company that contributes to positive change and shapes the way people live and connect, always acknowledging that it is customer experience that makes all the difference.
“My mission is very clear. It is to make Telecel Zimbabwe that “shining star on top of the hill” and ensure that it becomes the most profitable mobile operator of choice in Zimbabwe and the region, with unmatched and superior customer service,” he said.