By Alec Lushaba and Ntombi Mhlongo
Eswatini’s homegrown telecommunications giant, Eswatini Mobile intensifying its growth throughout the Kingdom with an E150 million investment.
Executive Chairman Michelo Shakantu said as an Eswatini-owned and run telecommunications company, whose birth in 2016 changed the entire industry by bringing innovations, affordability, and cheap data usage, they deemed it necessary to invest more resources to remain ahead of their competitors by providing First World network.
Shakantu said the 5th Generation (5G) roll-out has cost them about E100 million and will go live as soon as the switching centre is approved to do so. While the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) has predicted that most African countries will not turn on commercial 5G networks by 2025, Eswatini Mobile and Zedmobile look set to defy the odds.
This is because the two entities, which are subsidiary companies to Africa’s Leading Integrated Business Partner, Inyatsi Group, have made it their biggest target to launch the much-anticipated 5G network in the coming months.
In a new report by the EIU titled ‘Assessing 5G readiness in Africa: Legacy networks continue to dominate’, it is mentioned that although a few countries have turned on commercial 5G networks in 2022, about two-thirds of the 53 African countries surveyed for this report are not expected to do so until 2025 at the earliest.
Known as the world leader in global business intelligence, the EIU offers deep insight and analysis of the economic and political developments in the increasingly complex global environment; identifying opportunities, trends, and risks on a global and national scale.
The report highlights that policymakers will have their work cut out to attract 5G investment as telecommunication companies focus on 3G/4G instead.
Among the highlights in the report is that only 13 out of 53 African countries have launched 5G as at end-2022 and that signs are showing that two-thirds will not launch services until at least 2025.
It also mentions that most operators are still focusing on 3G and 4G networks, with 5G only an option in the long term. However, the two subsidiary companies have already laid the groundwork to launch the 5G network earlier than anticipated by the EIU.
Last year, Eswatini Mobile Chief Executive Officer Jeff Penberton revealed how the mobile network operator was focused on a trial project for 5G which he said will demonstrate that the company can continue offering First-World mobile network services to emaSwati.
On the other hand, Zedmobile, which was launched in Zambia at the end of last month, has committed itself to ensuring that it becomes the number one mobile data and voice across Zambia by providing affordable and reliable future-proof 5G network from the first day of operation.
During the launch in December last year, Zedmobile Vice Chairman Kelvin Hambwezya made a commitment that the company will bring 5G technology come July 2023.
The Executive Chairman further said it is not just the 5G network they are installing but they are also ensuring that network coverage throughout the country is improved.
“Within the next two months (which is the first quarter of this year), we are going to be switching on 25 base stations in the four regions. This has cost us around E50 million which is a demonstration of our commitment to being leaders not just in the Kingdom but the continent at large,” he said.
The Executive Chairman revealed that the first 20 new sites will go live between February and March. Shakantu said Eswatini Mobile being a proud Eswatini company, prides itself to state this massive network development has been overseen by astute Chief Technical Officer Jabu Dlamini, a leading Liswati woman engineer, who has been with the company since its inception.
The Executive Chairman said Emaswati should be proud to have developed one of the few infrastructure asset and telecommunications companies to have turned profitable within five years of its existence.
Eswatini Mobile has eight all local shareholders, Stage 1 Communication PTY Ltd, Cherrybite (Pty) Ltd, Eswatini National Provident Fund, Industrial Development Company of Eswatini, ESJ Software Limited, Swazi Mobile Trust Ltd, MOPADO (Members of Parliament and Designated Officers Pension Fund) and the Public Service Pension Fund.
The Executive Chairman said Eswatini Mobile is not a publicly listed company and accounts through audited financial statements to its shareholders yearly. He said the public enterprises who are shareholders in Eswatini Mobile account to their various constituencies about their investment.