INTERNATIONAL - Mobile operators are feeling the pinch of power outages in Zimbabwe, with blackouts disrupting connectivity and transactions in a country that relies heavily on electronic transactions.

Econet Wireless, the country’s biggest mobile operator, said yesterday that even diesel generators had failed to alleviate the problem as power cuts continued for up to 18 hours a day, while adding overhead costs.

“It is increasingly becoming untenable and uneconomical for Econet to guarantee a reasonable grade of service and optimal network up-time under the current conditions,” said Econet, whose service includes mobile money platforms that power most of Zimbabwe's digital transactions.

“With the ongoing aggressive Zesa (Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority) load shedding, our requirements are at more than six times the diesel we are currently using in order to provide uninterrupted service.”

On Saturday, network blackouts left several Zimbabweans stranded and unable to communicate and transact.

Econet said it would not be able to sustain running back-up generators for 14 to 18 hours daily. Founder Strive Masiyiwa said: “The cellphone network is one of the biggest single consumers of electricity.”

Econet said it had attempted to increase the diesel fuel allocated to its base station sites, but these measures were not enough to deal with the outages.

The government has asked hotel operators in the resort of Victoria Falls to pay for their electricity bills in forex while mining companies were being engaged to help offset about $20 million (R278.04m) owed to Eskom.

BUSINESS REPORT