Today, ZOL and Yo Africa, two of Zimbabwe’s biggest ISPs, have announced that they have entered a “strategic alliance” in which the two ISPs will combine some operating resources to lower the costs of service delivery.
The scope of resources the two ISPs will share in this alliance is not very clear but there are indications this involves bulk purchases of International bandwidth capacity from Internet Access Providers.
Since a few days before the end of the 2011, a rumour about a possible ZOL and Yo Africa merger has been doing the rounds in Harare. Some speculators even went further to throw WiMax provider, Aquiva, in the deal mix. The announcement today clears things up. There’s no merger to talk about.
We had an opportunity to speak to ZOL Founder and CEO, David Behr, and he confirmed to us that the two ISPs remain separate entities in this “strategic alliance”. He also revealed that ZOL and Yo Africa are currently talking to Aquiva for some bulk internet deals, but this in the same fashion they would with any IAP.
We also managed to solicit a comment from Yo Africa co-founder and director, Mark Kalweit, who said the alliance was part of an effort by the two ISPs to explore ways to enhance services to customers.
Aquiva has generally confirmed the bulk deals, elaborating that ZOL and Yo Africa have secured Indefeasible Rights of Use (IRUs) for some of Aquiva’s WiMax infrastructure.
In a message sent to us, Aquiva Chief Operating Officer, Artwell Mataranyika revealed that Aquiva “is installing a Wimax network which is dubbed to be the most reliable as it has gone through so many tests and optimizations.” Mataranyika further explained that this is part of normal business operations: “We do not only deal with ZOL and Yo but we are negotiating with all existing ISPs.”
On what lies ahead, ZOL and Yo Africa say they hope to find ways to maximize Zimbabwe’s telecommunications’ infrastructure to avoid infrastructure duplication and to efficiently use incoming investment to the country. They two also confirmed they are seeking further strategic alliances with IAPs to improve service delivery.
David Behr however expressed concern that IAPs can compete directly with ISPs for customers yet they also wholesale bandwidth to ISPs. This, he says provides an opportunity for unfair practices in the market: “If an IAP has an ISP arm, it should be clearly watched to avoid unfair practices.”
Asked about how he sees developments in the telecoms industry this year, Mark Kalweit says Zim will experience “huge improvements in the telecoms industry from all aspects of connectivity both locally and internationally, from a service quality perspective as well as a price perspective.”
It’s not too hard has to see that the “strategic alliance” between ZOL and Yo Africa will make competition a bit uneasy. There are no official figures available but ZOL is arguably the biggest ISP in Zimbabwe. Yo Africa is generally up there too. And you will remember also that ZOL has the widest WiFi hotspot coverage in Zimbabwe. Yo Africa is in this business too with its Chilli-Spots.