New mobile operator to launch in Zimbabwe in June

By Nqobile Charles Bhebhe

Posted on June 15, 2011 15:15

Spiritage, a new fully-owned Zimbabwean telecoms operator, is set to launch in Zimbabwe by the end of June after investing $25m in a data and voice network.

Spiritage’s entry into the data and voice telephony network is expected to inject competition into a market that has been under the control of two firms, Econet and Orascom, for over a decade.

According to estimates, Econet holds 70 per cent of Zimbabwe’s mobile market share, with 5.5m subscribers, while Orascom-owned Telecel and Net*One control the remaining 30 per cent.

Spiritage is a Zimbabwean operation, whose founders pulled away from Econet. It was issued with an Internet Access Provider (IPA) license in May by the nation’s telecom regulator, Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ).

The IPA license will allow the firm to offer data, short-message-system (sms) and voice telephony services.

It has collected 500,000 subsribers in an early pilot phase, but the full network’s launch will come in mid-June. Spiritage has been setting up fourth generation (4G) and Wimax technology base stations.

Group chief executive Zachary Wazara said POTRAZ was finalising interconnection agreements before operations could begin.

The firm will also provide the market with internet dongles and mobile handsets, which do not carry SIM cards, but are GSM compatible.

“Our technology coupled with the fibre optic will significantly reduce costs currently at around $2,400 per megabyte to around $400. We are targeting to make broadband cheaper and easily accessible to more people,” said Wazara.

Meanwhile, rapid growth registered since early 2009 has seen Zimbabwe’s mobile phone penetration reaching 57 percent, according to industry estimates, with around 10 firms offering internet services.

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