State-owned Zimbabwean cellco NetOne has announced that it intends to deploy at least 200 new GSM base stations this year in addition to commissioning a second mobile switching centre, aiming to relieve congestion on its network and expand coverage to hitherto inaccessible areas. Managing Director Reward Kangai said the new switching centre in Bulawayo was in the final testing phase and would be in operation ‘soon’, and added that, ‘installation of base stations at ten new sites in Bulawayo is now complete and…30 more sites in Harare are under construction.’ While NetOne claims to have wider network coverage than domestic market leader Econet, dropped calls and congestion have been major problems for its subscribers in densely populated areas. According to local news reports, NetOne released 200,000 new mobile phone numbers onto the market in the fourth quarter of 2006, and is expected to make more available by the end of February. Econet reportedly released 300,000 new numbers in the same quarter, while third-placed Telecel also introduced ‘thousands’ of new numbers; no confirmed subscriber take-up figures have yet been released. An estimated two million Zimbabweans can afford mobile phone services, but a decade since NetOne rolled out the first GSM services, the country’s official subscriber total remains at around one million.