The smallest of Zimbabwe’s three mobile network operators (MNOs), government-backed Telecel, suffered a disastrous first three months of the year, losing more than 20% of its customer base. The struggling cellco saw user numbers drop from 727,094 at the end of 2020 to 584,104 at end-March according to figures released by industry regulator POTRAZ and published by Techzim. A series of boardroom disputes and ownership wrangles have hit the firm in recent years and this has led to a lack of investment in the upkeep of infrastructure. In addition, while rivals Econet and NetOne now have extensive 4G networks, Telecel has deployed just 17 LTE base stations and users report a complete lack of 4G connectivity. Even its 3G network is unreliable, with customers saying they are often left with only a 2G signal.
Market leader Econet saw a 1.2% drop in its subscriber numbers to 8.67 million, while number two player NetOne saw its user base rise 0.8% to 3.72 million. The overall wireless subscriber total dropped from 13.19 million to 12.97 million during the first quarter.