'Power cuts escalate telecoms costs'

By Staff reporter | 23 Jul 2019 at 10:09hrs
THE crippling power outages being experienced across the country have escalated operational costs and compromised the quality of service delivery in the telecommunications sector, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, has said.  

In a statement yesterday, Econet apologised to its customers following the mobile network collapse at the weekend, which it said was "triggered by Zesa power outages" at its network operations centre in Harare.  

Thousands of subscribers countrywide were left stranded on Saturday as they could neither make calls or conduct transactions using EcoCash.

Econet said the level of power cuts had reached unsustainable levels and was threatening the viability of the telecoms sector. The listed firm said provisional measures to mitigate the impact on service quality and network performance through use of diesel generators at base stations were being hampered by prevailing fuel shortages.

"Even with these contingency measures, the increased fuel allocation is still inadequate to ensure the required optimum network performance and at current regulated pricing levels, the related costs are not sustainable," said Econet.

"The severe shortage of both electrical power and diesel fuel means that some of our base stations will not be operational when there is no Zesa power or when fuel runs out on a site.

"This inevitably results in the degradation of all services supported by the network in terms of service availability, call setup, call success rates, dropped call rates and speech quality."

Electricity generation dropped drastically in the last few months due to a drastic fall in water levels at the giant Kariba Hydro-Power Station, the main source of power. The situation has been worsened by subdued output at Hwange and other smaller thermal stations due to ageing infrastructure.  

In view of this challenge, Econet said it was increasingly becoming difficult and uneconomical for the business to guarantee quality service to its clients.  

"With the ongoing aggressive load shedding, our requirements are at more than six times the diesel we are currently using in order to provide uninterrupted service.  

"The company cannot sustain the current operating conditions of running back-up generators for 14 to 18 hours daily," it said.

"We are also now incurring higher costs because of the heavy reliance on generators as we now have to service the generators every fortnight, as opposed to the scheduled quarterly service intervals."

Given the foregoing, Econet said it has stepped up engagement with the relevant stakeholders with a view to finding an urgent solution to the power supply problem that was affecting the telecommunications industry as a whole.

Government is seized with the situation and engagements are underway to secure supplies from regional producers while efforts to upgrade existing plants take shape.



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