Zimbabwean state-owned mobile operator NetOne is carrying out a project to expand its network capacity to five million subscribers, and hopes to more than triple its active customer base to over 1.5 million by end-May 2010. Government mouthpiece The Herald quotes managing director Reward Kangai as saying that NetOne had around 1.2 million subscriber capacity and half a million subscribers before commencing expansion work. ‘Most of the base stations being installed in this expansion drive are solar energy-powered and this reduces service disruptions arising from erratic power supplies. Switching capacity has also been greatly increased to accommodate five million subscribers,’ said Mr Kangai. He added that the pre-paid platform was being upgraded to accommodate three million subscribers from a previous limit of one million, whilst the SMS message capacity was being near-doubled from 84 SMS per second to 154. Earlier this month the operator announced its new subscriber take-up target to a parliamentary committee after getting new funding cleared to expand the network. NetOne, the country’s smallest cellco by users, is in negotiations with South African giant MTN Group over a possible strategic partnership, which it is hoped could result in MTN acquiring a minority stake in the Zimbabwean operator and injecting up to USD600 million in fresh capital. The Herald says that MTN and NetOne late last year signed a memorandum of non-disclosure on the ongoing negotiations, forbidding both parties from disclosing information on the potential deal to third parties without the consent of the other.