Econet embraces 5G, AI to drive growth, profitability

02 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
Econet embraces 5G, AI to drive growth, profitability Dr Myers

The Sunday Mail

Enacy Mapakame

LISTED mobile network operator Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is intensifying network expansion and upgrade initiatives in a bid to enhance connectivity and profitability, as well as ward off competition.

During the year to February 29, 2024, the group was on a robust network modernisation and strategic investment drive, which has been the cornerstone of its strategy to enhance service quality and expand coverage.

Econet chairperson Dr James Myers said the group will continue to invest in network infrastructure to meet customer demands and keep abreast with global trends, in line with the vision of a digitally connected future that leaves no Zimbabwean behind.

“Our strategic partnerships with key equipment vendors have enabled us to accelerate our network modernisation after several years of underinvestment due to limited foreign currency availability,” he said in a performance update for the year under review.

Econet has modernised over 1 012 sites with 4G high-capacity base stations, with a significant concentration of these upgrades in Harare, Bulawayo and the Manicaland region. The telecoms giant is also looking at an additional 550 base stations to be installed across the country, aimed at further improving service coverage and quality.

This comes as the Government, through the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), has now provided spectrum within the 700MHz frequency band, which will extend the coverage of existing base stations to serve customers who are on the periphery of the current coverage limit. As a result, the group added more than 50 new base station sites, contributing to increased network capacity and reliability.

“This investment has enhanced our quality of service and increased network coverage, ensuring that our customers enjoy superior connectivity,” explained Dr Myers.

The group has also integrated artificial intelligence (AI) into its operations, which, according to Dr Myers, has played a pivotal role in boosting operational efficiency and enhancing customer experiences.

The company has deployed AI algorithms to improve customer segmentation and offer personalised services, resulting in increased customer activity. The group has integrated AI-driven recommendation engines and predictive models into daily operations to drive usage and revenue.

This reflects the company’s commitment to leveraging on technology for business growth and customer satisfaction.

“This has enabled us to deliver a remarkable 47 percent growth in usage in the voice segment,” he said.

To address challenges emanating from erratic power supplies, Econet has invested in renewable energy solutions to maintain service continuity. The deployment of green power solutions has been crucial in ensuring high uptime for the majority of base stations.

The network upgrade and expanded coverage comes at a time the anticipated entry of Starlink into Zimbabwe is expected to put more pressure on the existing telecoms operators, creating scope for them to innovate and stay ahead of competition.

In terms of financial performance, the group’s revenue more than doubled, or rose by 133 percent to $14,8 trillion on the back of a 34 percent increase in voice volume and a 36 percent rise in data volume. These were also supported by the company’s network modernisation efforts and cost optimisation strategies that yielded a margin of profitability above 45 percent.

However, the depreciation of the local currency impacted the group’s financial results, with exchange losses amounting to $3,2 trillion, equivalent to 22 percent of revenue.

The group’s loss for the period widened to $1,1 trillion from $317 billion in the prior year.

However, retirement of foreign currency-denominated debentures in October 2023 significantly reduced the group’s exposure to exchange rate fluctuations, positively impacting profitability.

Econet is upbeat this will help boost its profitability for the current financial year and going forward.

The group is also hoping the introduction of the Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG) currency will bring the much-needed economic stability and facilitate better financial planning and reporting. Additionally, the company will also leverage on its 5G network service.

“We are looking to scale up our 5G penetration to unlock new opportunities, leverage on artificial intelligence and process automation to improve operational efficiencies and customer service delivery,” said Dr Myers.

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