Zimbabweans are very particular about the cost of a product or service and any adjustment made to that effect. This extends to anything that an entrepreneur might want to provide really. The market is very price sensitive, just ask Powertel.
It’s all blamed on the tough economic environment. Every dollar counts so if you up the price on something or make it premium then you can be sure that a lot of folks won’t touch it. Your product or service is branded as something for the affluent rather than the the have-nots.
Which is the zone where ZOL’ s fibre packages seem to have been hovering. Even with the entry level $89 package that was supposed to lead the ZOL Fibroniks march there was still some apprehension. It didn’t matter to consumers that this was a fibre connection with awesome speeds and connection quality on its side.
Now with its $39 Basics Fibre package the size of the potential market has changed for the Internet Service Provider (ISP). The price sits well below the previous $89 “entry” mark and even undercuts the $59 Wimax unlimited package. Depending on what someone uses their internet connection for, this $39 package might actually give slower unlimited packages a run for their money.
I tend to think so because for a while I have been oscillating between a fibre connection and the ZOL Wimax offering and though the latter might be unlimited it has nothing on fibre. There’s always the frustration that comes with poor speeds at certain times of the month, even if you haven’t been “abusing” your unlimited connection for the odd movie torrent.
Now this new fibre package brings ZOL into a closer contest with providers like Umax, Aptics and Yo Africa that have been steadfast in providing quality internet at a slightly higher price.
The Umax package for example is a $75 Wimax package that has a 20GB cap and a guaranteed 1Mbps speed. It now has a lot to prove against a $39 15GB fibre package that can hit speeds of up to 5Mbps. Interestingly though, with this greater focus on price this new ZOL option is now being compared (read the comments here) to the TelOne $45/25GB ADSL package.
Will local internet prices tumble? It could happen. After all, this was what the market has probably needed for the past 12 to 18 months with all the tightening of economic screws that Zimbabweans have had to endure.
ZOL has probably fired the first shot in what will hopefully be a price and data war to keep internet users engaged. What is peculiar though is this might have been about something more than the internet.
ZOL as a gateway for communication
The talk has always been about how ZOL Fibroniks comes with a host of possibilities for high speed internet and communication, which in all entirety is what we would want the internet to be. It’s just that no other ISP or IAP is leaning on the other aspects of the internet in the same way or packaging it as such.
Looking at communications, Fibroniks comes with a VoIP service that is being pushed along with the fibre internet package.
Honestly the ability to call other ZOL numbers for free doesn’t have much merit right now. Not many people have ZOL VoIP services at the moment. In fact other voice providers like TelOne and Africom aren’t worried by that, but they should be.
One distinct characteristic of ZOL and its parent company Liquid is that relative to Zimbabwean infrastructure roll-out, they are establishing their presence at breakneck speed.
Although it is still limited to Harare the Liquid fibre network which powers ZOL products has already been extended to both high and low density areas, which increases the potential uptake of such services. Voice communication that comes as a cherry on top for fast internet can upset the market, especially if it is made “free”.