Telecel Zimbabwe, the country’s second largest mobile network operator by subscribers, has signed up ‘close to a million’ users, parent Telecel Globe’s CEO Kai Uebach told media in Harare last Thursday, as reported by the Zimbabwe Standard. The cellco had 592,000 subscribers at end-December 2009 according to a Telecel Globe presentation, based on a 90-day user activity period, whilst Q4 2009 blended ARPU was reported as USD12, using the exchange rate as of 31 December. Uebach told the local journalists that Telecel Zimbabwe was in the process of rolling out 170 new base stations countrywide, whilst its network signal quality had recently been significantly improved. Telecel has also invested heavily in electricity generators and batteries so that its network can continue operating during frequent and prolonged periods without mains electricity. Meanwhile, he attributed the rapid rise in Telecel’s subscribers in the last few months to its reduction in the price of SIM cards to USD2, including USD1 of air time, alongside the lowering of the cost of international calls to countries where there were substantial numbers of ex-pat Zimbabweans. The CEO also rebuffed recent accusations of ‘externalisation’ of funds at the company, simply stating that equipment that was unavailable in Zimbabwe had to be sourced abroad, and was purchased at competitive prices. Uebach said he had met with the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ) and government ministers to assure them that Telecel Globe would comply with legal requirements for it to reduce its existing 60% shareholding to 49%. He indicated that his preference would be to float the shares on the stock exchange, for reasons including ensuring transparency. Telecel Globe is 94% owned by Egypt’s Orascom Telecom.