Zimbabwe’s internet subscribers more than doubled between 2011 and 2012 as internet service providers commit to improve accessibility on their platforms, latest statistics show.
According to Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) figures, internet subscribers stood at 4,5 million at the end of 2012 compared to 2 million subscribers the previous year.
Mobile internet subscribers, according to the regulator, had reached 3.2 million in the second quarter of 2012.
Potraz figures show that the country’s tele-density rate as at January 31 this year, for both mobile and fixed telephony, went up 16% to 91% from 75% prior year.
Teledensity refers to the number of landline or mobile telephones in use for every 100 individuals living within a given area and is normally a mark of development with areas that have higher densities normally being economically advanced than those with lower density.
The growth is attributable to mobile phone companies that have given their combined 10 million-plus subscribers internet access on mobile devices through third and fourth generation internet platforms popularly known as 3G and 4G.
The mobile network providers-Econet Wireless, Net One and Telecel- have also promoted internet use through various promotions.
Government, through its sole fixed telephony line provider TelOne completed the fibre optic cable link between Harare and Bulawayo and is soon expected to link Bulawayo and the country’s premier resort town of Victoria Falls in time for the United Nations world Tourism organization general assembly to be co hosted with Zambia in August this year.
Zimbabwe’s links to the undersea cable has improved internet capacity and quality.
However, internet tariffs remain high, slowing internet usage growth to full potential.
According to Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net 2012 report, there are many practical obstacles that hinder Zimbabwean citizens’ access to internet services, including high prices and limited infrastructure.
Freedom House said the rate for pre-paid mobile web access for Telecel, Econet and Net One is US$0,11, US$0,15 and US$0,10 per megabyte respectively, making Net One the cheapest.
The country’s mobile network providers, for instance, continue drawing most of their revenue from voice calls as internet charges are arguably prohibitive.
Last year, Telecel reported only 4, 2% of its US$611 million annual revenue for the year ended February 2012 came from internet.