State-run Zimbabwean cellco NetOne has approached the treasury to renegotiate terms for a USD28 million loan obtained from international financiers at its inception more than a decade ago, reports AllAfrica.com, quoting The Zimbabwe Independent. Reward Kangai, NetOne’s managing director, told the parliamentary portfolio committee on media, information and communication technology that the firm had since 2002 failed to service the debt owed to three lenders, among them the UK-based Standard Chartered Bank. However, Kangai added that NetOne could level the playing field with its privately-run competitors, Econet Wireless and Telecel Zimbabwe, if the government approved the setting up of an independent procurement committee to replace the current state body which, the MD claimed, often took close to six months to procure supplies for the GSM operator. Kangai said the company had failed to replace its obsolete billing system following a decision by the existing procurement board to cancel bids by prospective suppliers, and as a result subscribers on monthly contracts were shifting to the pre-paid platform, EasyCall. Meanwhile, the government has received USD53 million in financing from China for expanding NetOne’s network and customer base. The company had been targeting ‘five million subscribers by March this year’; it was reported this month to have less than 500,000 subscribers.
In a separate development, the incoming managing director of Telecel Zimbabwe, Aimable Mpore, revealed to the same parliamentary committee that the Orascom Telecom subsidiary would launch 3G mobile services by June this year after it was granted necessary wireless frequencies by the Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) last week.