Kiyapili Sibanda, Business Reporter
STATE-owned telecommunications operator, TelOne, says the roll-out of the National Broadband (NBB) Project under the $98 million China Exim Bank facility is progressing well.
The implementation of the network modernisation project, which began last year, is expected to be completed within a period of 18 to 24 months.
The upgrade exercise is expected to result in the modification of area codes and landline numbers across the country as TelOne moves to offer world-class, cutting edge communication solutions to its clients in Zimbabwe.
“Upgrading our network means a whole new range of services and capabilities in the network. Customers will now be able to recharge their accounts in advance to avoid surprise bills at the end of the month,” said TelOne corporate manager, Mrs Melody Harry.
“They (clients) can also enjoy enhanced crystal clear voice, faster internet speeds, Internet TV, Interactive Voice Response Services, video and tele-conferencing and toll free services. The new era of convergence will also bring seamless communication with more value-added services than ever before from TelOne.”
According to the company, the upgrade will transform the business model from fixed voice dependency to a fixed mobile converged business that is able to offer diversified services based on internet.
The $98 million China Exim Bank facility is targeted at bringing ADSL and fibre to the Home capacities of 85 000 and 34 000 respectively.
“For this year, we plan to deploy 70 000 ADSL capacity to 100 sites by increasing capacity to some existing areas and reaching to new areas. For the Fibre to the Home service, TelOne will be rolling out a total capacity of 34 00 clients in new areas with 20 suburbs having been targeted in major towns, thus bringing the new broadband capacity to 104 000 for 2017 alone,” said Mrs Harry.
She said Phase 1 of the National Broadband Project, which has been partly completed, includes Bulawayo-Victoria Falls link upgrade, Mutare-Harare-Bulawayo-Plumtree transmission upgrade, Harare-Mutare network upgrade, set up of a state of the art Harare Main and Mazoe Data Centres, prepaid billing system and Core Network Upgrade.
“Further, capabilities under the upgrade include easy recharge, bundled products, social media bundles and closer user groups,” she said.
Mrs Harry said the company has been affected by the operating environment challenges, which have seen a decline in revenues.
“Revenues have already been adversely impacted by the decline in voice revenues as a result of the Over the Top Applications popularly known as the OTTs such as WhatsApp, as well as preference for mobile rather than fixed communications,” she added.
Mrs Harry said the economic environment has further worsened an already challenging revenue model for TelOne, which has had a direct negative impact on their operating performance.
“The decline in revenue means that the company is not able to honour some of its obligations timeously.
“Furthermore, as a company that has been implementing some projects like our public Wi-Fi and Fibre to the Home from own funding, it means a slowdown in this regard,” she said.
TelOne has said it expects to recover $165 million in arrears this year after adopting a door-to-door debt recovery strategy.
The firm is owed $271 million by different clients in the country including Government departments, and last year it managed to collect $123 million after an aggressive debt collection strategy.