Mobile Network Providers Contemplate Switching Off Base Stations During Load Shedding

Zimbabwe Mobile Network Operators are contemplating to introduce downtime at their base stations for at least eight hours per day as operating them without power and support costs have drained the business, a recent research has revealed.

In a wide interview  with experts across the networks, they all suggested that it is now more viable to go offline when ZESA switches off, as the costs of  maintenance continue to balloon beyond business sense.

Zimbabwe had a total of 8,796 active base stations as at 31 December 2018. As of March this year, the total number of base stations in the country rose to 8,884.

Of these base stations, Econet holds 52.7% 2G base stations, 56.6% of 3G and 69.9% LTE coverage. NetOne owns 34.0% of 2G base stations, 28.5% for both 3G and LTE infrastructure while Telecel has 13.3% of 2G, 14.9% of 3G and 1.6% of LTE coverage.

“More could have been added by today, but operating just these base stations has certain daily costs which are inevitable,” said an expert.

The national telecommunications regulator has 90%+ uptime requirement, meaning that the base stations must always be available to the users and yes, there is Quality Of Service benchmarks which even penalizes them should they operate below standards.

Last year POTRAZ penalized all mobile networks of millions when then failed the quality of service test with dropping calls, cross-linking of voices and poor connectivity.

“This basically means without ZESA for more than 16 hours daily, mobile networks are still, by law supposed to be providing such services at world-class standard, even though the environment is not so,” said yet another expert.

He added, “Maintaining 8 800 base stations for 16 hours on diesel alone at an average of 20 liters per day means the telecommunications sector is spending a minimum of ZWL$100 533 per day over a month the bill balloons to ZWL$3 015 936.00.

“If $3 million per month is going to diesel, what about the cost of maintaining the base stations, technical maintenance, capital investment spent in installing them, which all operators are still paying loans they borrowed in USD value, interconnection fees, and the monthly salaries and wages bills,” qurried the expert.

Another expert in the telecommunications had this to say as well: “Every base station in Zimbabwe has some form of a security, that is security guard (s) security walling and those with solar and diesel generators demand physical human presence to guard against theft, and this comes at a cost as well. The total bill is outrageously insane.”

He added, “Many people think that when we have 12 million subscribers the sector is getting an average of dollar per every caller daily, hence the sector is generating atmost $12 million.

“The Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) for December 2018 was $5.58 from $5.92 recorded in the third Quarter of 2018. This figure comes from the total number of subscribers using mobile network services at once in 6 months.

“This simply means we have many more people who have bought lines but rarely use them, of these people who have them only very few are religiously topping up and using the network service which amounts top the actual ARP per every network.”

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