The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) recently released its Abridged Postal & Telecommunications Sector Performance Report for the second quarter of 2023. The report provides insights into the performance of various sectors within the industry during this period. While there were notable increases in certain areas, others experienced declines, reflecting a mixed performance in Zimbabwe's telecommunications landscape.

Fixed Telephone Lines and Teledensity: During the second quarter of 2023, the number of active fixed telephone lines saw a 3.2% increase, reaching 301,465 compared to 292,253 in the previous quarter. As a result, the fixed teledensity also rose by 0.06% to reach 1.99%. This growth indicates a positive trend in fixed telephony adoption, suggesting continued demand for reliable communication services.

Mobile Subscriptions and Penetration Rate: However, the total number of active mobile subscriptions declined by 0.7% to 13,955,937 from 14,051,251 in the first quarter of 2023. Consequently, the mobile penetration rate dropped by 0.7% to 91.9%. This decline may be attributed to various factors, such as market saturation or shifts in consumer preferences. It highlights the need for mobile service providers to innovate and adapt to changing market dynamics.

Internet and Data Subscriptions: Similarly, the number of active Internet and data subscriptions experienced a slight decline of 0.2%, totaling 9,902,500 compared to 9,920,847 in the previous quarter. The Internet penetration rate also dropped by 0.2% to 65.2%. These figures indicate a relatively stable but slightly decreasing trend in internet usage. Stakeholders in the telecommunications sector should focus on strategies to enhance internet accessibility and affordability to stimulate growth.

Voice and Data Traffic: PSTN fixed voice traffic declined by 6.5% to 72.4 million minutes in the second quarter of 2023. Conversely, mobile voice traffic saw a slight increase of 0.2% to 2.53 billion minutes during the same period. The growth in mobile voice traffic suggests that mobile telephony remains a preferred communication channel for many Zimbabweans.

Mobile internet and data traffic witnessed a significant boost of 11.6%, amounting to 42,058.3 Terabytes in the second quarter of 2023. This surge indicates a growing demand for data services, presenting opportunities for mobile operators to capitalize on the increasing popularity of digital content consumption and online activities.

Postal and Courier Services: The postal and courier sector experienced a positive growth of 2% in total volumes, with 536,986 items recorded in the second quarter of 2023. This increase demonstrates the continued relevance of postal services in Zimbabwe despite the digital revolution. The sector should embrace technological advancements to enhance efficiency and competitiveness.

Financial Performance: Both mobile operators and internet access providers (IAPs) witnessed substantial growth in revenue during the second quarter of 2023. Total mobile operator revenues grew by 170.5% to ZWL435.7 billion, while IAP revenues increased by 136.9% to ZWL191.2 billion. However, operating costs for mobile operators and IAPs also experienced significant growth, highlighting the need for effective cost management strategies.

In the postal and courier sector, total revenue generated surged by 249% to ZWL20 billion. However, operating costs also increased by 300.8% to ZWL21.9 billion. These figures emphasize the importance of balancing revenue growth with cost optimization to ensure sustainable profitability.

Potraz's second-quarter report reveals a mixed performance in Zimbabwe's postal and telecommunications sector. While fixed telephone lines and mobile voice traffic experienced positive growth, mobile subscriptions, internet subscriptions, and PSTN fixed voice traffic faced minor declines. The surge in mobile internet and data traffic indicates a growing appetite for digital services.

Stakeholders in the industry should focus on addressing challenges and capitalizing on opportunities to fuel growth and innovation. Improving internet accessibility, enhancing cost management strategies, and embracing technological advancements are crucial for the sector's long-term success. By adapting to evolving consumer needs and market dynamics, Zimbabwe's postal and telecommunications industry can thrive in the digital era.