There’s the sweet smell of a telecoms turf war in the air once again. This time its mobile money related, proving how the focus for dominance in telecoms is less and less about traditional services like voice communication.
With mobile money as a focal point for revenue growth, Econet and Telecel (anyone seen One Wallet?) have gone on to introduce debit cards that bring real banking to the mobile wallet. All this is an extension of mobile money’s influence which means less reliance on hard currency.
First we had the Telecash Gold Card, launched as a bank-services-meets-mobile-money- wallet product. This is a market disruptor in its own right, with its potency stemming from its usability with ZimSwitch POS terminals and ATMs. As long as you have money in your mobile wallet you can do pretty much everything that an account holder of a formal bank can do with their debit card as well.
Today, exactly two weeks after Telecash’s splash, the EcoCash MasterCard Debit Card was unveiled to the public. What it lacks by not being “ZimSwitch Ready” it makes up for with a marriage to global payments giant, MasterCard.
Every EcoCash Debit Card holder can withdraw money from their mobile wallet at any MasterCard-licensed ATM and pay for goods and services at merchants that accept MasterCard payment cards, both in Zimbabwe and internationally.
The card also handles internet payments. With that aspect EcoCash has managed to provide the angle that Telecash had promised to integrate with its Gold Card at a later stage.
Depending on which side of the street you are standing on these two products offer pretty much the same value really – a card for the cashless society. This is, after all, the objective of plastic money in the first place.
While the Gold Card has its hand on local payments with the extensive presence of ZimSwitch POS and ATMs, the EcoCash Debit card seeks to provide a similar function with a different partner.
Judging from the figures presented by Econet CEO Douglas Mboweni at the launch of the EcoCash Debit card mobile money will continue to be a strong focus for revenue for the telecoms firm. Transactions on the platform exceed $400 million per month, which is nearly $5 billion per year.
Telecel is not to be outdone even though it came late to the party. Its Telecash service, just six months and a day old, is playing an impressive game of catch up with a zero to 600,00 customers acceleration. The intention here is to take a bigger bite into the mobile money pie where cash is the substitute.
So what can we expect next? No doubt the fusion of mobile commerce with money remittances will be a tipping factor for the mobile money services. Econet has already jumped into that ring and Telecel is following suit. There’s also the bigger step into e-commerce, something that Econet already hinted on when it launched its Platinum Card.
Thanks to more mobile money related products these network operators are set to have a firmer grip on e-payments and come out as the best cash substitute. With the traditional banks being overshadowed by EcoCash and TeleCash it looks like these networks are the dominant force in commerce and this cashless society.