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Mobile operators register inbound call decline

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ZIMBABWE’S mobile network operators raked in less foreign currency during the first three months of the year after inbound calls into the country registered an 8.5% decline while outbound calls surged, a new report by the telecoms regulator has shown.

BERNARD MPOFU

As the country faces an economic implosion worsened by the plunge of the Zimbabwe dollar, inbound calls have emerged as a source of revenue for telecoms firms as the calling party pays for calls placed via  cellphone.

According to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) first-quarter sector performance report, international incoming traffic declined by 8.5%, whereas international outgoing traffic increased by 24.6%.

“This may be attributable to uncompetitive tariffs, where it is now cheaper for residents to call outside the country, than for foreign residents to make calls into the country. This results in a decline in foreign currency earnings from international voice traffic after settlement, the report reads.

Econet, according to Potraz, was the only mobile network to record growth in active subscriptions (1.1%), with NetOne and Telecel recording declines of 1.1% and 5% respectively. For NetOne, this is the first quarter over the past year to record a decline in active subscriptions. Telecel`s active subscriber base has been consistently declining.

“A total of 1.77 billion minutes of voice traffic were recorded in the first quarter of 2022. This represents a 2.3% decline, from 1.81 billion minutes recorded in the previous quarter,” the report says.

“This is a consecutive quarter to record a decline in total mobile voice traffic; however, the margin of decline (-2.3%) is much lower than that recorded in the previous quarter (-14.3%). Inbound roaming recorded the biggest decline of 16.2%. Roaming traffic usually peaks during the festive season, due to increased cross-border travel, and then declines thereafter. This partly explains the huge decline in both inbound and outbound roaming traffic in the first quarter of 2022.

“The trend of declining international incoming and outgoing voice traffic continued into the quarter under review.

This is partly attributable to the proliferation of over-the-top services.

“There was no major change in the market share of mobile voice traffic in the period under review. Telecel lost voice traffic market share by 0.2%, whereas NetOne and Econet gained 1%, individually.”

Total SMS traffic declined by 12.7% to record 2.4 billion messages in the first quarter of 2022, from 2.8 billion messages recorded in the fourth quarter of 2021, the report reads.

“Person-to-Person (P2P) traffic has been declining due to the proliferation of over-the-top services, such as WhatsApp and Telegram amongst others, offering cheaper and more convenient messaging alternatives,” reads the report.

A total of 22,052 terabytes of mobile internet and data were consumed in the first quarter of 2022. This represents a 14.9 % decline in traffic from 25,902 terabytes recorded in the fourth quarter of 2021. The decline in internet and data traffic was experienced across all the three mobile networks.

“The decline in internet and data traffic may be attributable to declined data affordability because of declining disposable incomes,” the report reads.

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