Harare - Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile network provider Econet says its subscriber base has now reached 8 million.
The figure is 61.5% of the country’s population of 13 million, according to preliminary results of the 2012 population census released by Zimstat.
However, chances are high that some of the subscribers have more than two lines each as well as lines from other network providers.
In a press release, Econet wireless commercial director George Barbaressos said the key factor in Econet's dominance is investment. “We have spent and continue to spend more money on our network than all our competitors combined.”
Econet has invested a total US$1bn since its founding, with $700m invested in the past three years.
The company also announced that EcoCash customers have crossed 2 million for the first time. EcoCash is a mobile money transfer service similar to Kenya's M-Pesa.
Meanwhile, Econet customers will soon be able to buy the latest generation phones, known as smartphones, and tablets such as i-Pads on 24-month instalments following the creation of a special credit facility at TN Bank, one of Econet's subscribers.
The plan to finance phones on credit is part of the cellphone company's reasons for acquiring TN Bank. The facility at TN Bank is expected to kick off once Econet has completed its acquisition of TN Bank.
To grow its revenues in a maturing voice market, Econet said it needs to convert increasing numbers of its 8 million customers to smartphones and tablet computers which can use high-speed data and internet services.
“Due to liquidity constraints and the ravages of hyperinflation, many Zimbabweans are behind in upgrading their communication devices. This is the reason why Econet has decided to essentially speed up the process,” said the company.
Econet also has products that allow Zimbabweans in South Africa to either call home or transfer funds back to Zimbabwe.
Last year it launched EcoChat in South Africa after engaging with Pattern Matched as its technical partner. The service will allow Econet subscribers living or working in South Africa to chat with friends and family in Zimbabwe using their phones.
*Malcom Sharara is Fin24's correspondent in Zimbabwe.
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