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Fixed phones still lucrative says TelOne MD

Fixed phones still lucrative says TelOne MD

Chipo Mutasa, Managing Director of Zimbabwe state-owned fixed phone operator TelOne, says landlines are still an important telecom platform and the company plans to raise the number of fixed phone subscribers to 300 000.

TelOne, which also holds but is not utilising the fourth mobile network license, is the only local fixed phone operator. Mobile operators NetOne, Telecel and Econet have raised cellphone user numbers to over 10 million.

"We hope that we can grow it (landline subscriptions) back to 300,000 and beyond in the next couple of years because the landline is still a very relevant service and people want convenience and affordability," said Mutasa in Harare on Tuesday.

The company currently has about 230 000 subscribers on its fixed phone platform.

Zimbabwe Auditor General Mildred Chiri has flagged TelOne's net liability position of US$112 million as "casting doubt about the company's ability" to continue as a going concern.

"The company has also witnessed revenue decline due to consumer preference for mobile and Over the Top services to traditional fixed voice services," Chiri said in her audit report on TelOne for the 2016 financial year.

In its financial results for the year to December 2016 released in June, TelOne recorded a loss of US$24 million.

According to Mutasa said the company will drive up subscriber numbers for its fixed phone unit to bolster revenues.

TelOne also offers internet services and on Tuesday said will allow home broadband subscribers to also use its hotspot internet platforms across the country.

"We are seeing our revenue coming back up this year and we are about 3% up from last year. Last year we saw a sharp decline in our revenue so that growth, while it is encouraging, is not sufficient to completely take us out of the red," Mutasa added.

Legacy debts, which have ballooned to US$364 million, have worsened prospects for the telco, with related overdue charges escalating to US$93 million as at the end of last year.

The government also owes TelOne significant amounts in unpaid bills by state enterprises and other departments.

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