HARARE – Zimbabwe’s second largest mobile telecommunications company, NetOne, says it is working on strategies to complete its $137 million licence fee within the next decade.
NetOne’s acting chief executive, Brian Mutandiro, on Monday said the company was also in discussions over how to settle legacy debt.
“We have paid $4 million towards the current licence but we are in discussions with the ministry and the Postal Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) for a payment plan so that we can pay for the licence,” he said in Parliament.
This comes as the government in 2013 hiked mobile phone operators’ licence renewal fees by 37 percent to $137 million while the tenure for the same licence was extended to 20 years from the previous 15-year tenure.
Since then, only Econet Wireless has fully paid the total amount.
Mutandiro, who took over from long-serving executive Reward Kangai who was suspended in March last year, said the group did not have money to pay for its licence in full but was working around the clock to ensure that it complies with the law.
“We have paid a deposit and we are now negotiating a payment plan over 10 years and then there are bi-annual payments until we liquidate that…And then we create a simple fund so that by the time we come to the expiry of the licence we can immediately pay, unlike now when we did not have the money,” the acting NetOne boss said.
The affable executive added that his company’s market share was growing on the back of increased investment.
“Official figures that came in the third quarter from Potraz show that we are growing faster than the other networks… whereas we have increased from 33 percent market share to almost 37 percent, so our numbers are growing faster than anybody else…,” he said.
NetOne is expected to access over $400 million from the China Exim Bank this year, for a project expected to put 3 000 base stations online, from Chinese president Xi Jinping’s $60 billion Development Projects Fund for African countries announced in 2015 at the China-Africa conference.
The company ramped up its infrastructural reach by setting up 2 300 base stations as at September 2016, as part of a $218 million investment, in addition to 2 190 base stations.
Mutandiro said the company — which is targeting to double its subscriber base to eight million by end of 2017 — now has the widest fourth generation (4G) technology Long Term Evolution (LTE), with 256 LTE base stations around the country.