In October 2010, Africom made a bold unprecedented move in the history of the internet in Zimbabwe. Fresh from the launch of its new red brand and mobile broadband services, the company announced the pricing of its data packages; the cost of a 1 gigabyte bundle was US $18. It was crazy. It was fantastic for the customers. We celebrated. For the first time in Zimbabwe, here was a company that understood that the internet was not a luxury for rich.
To put this in context, the competition, Econet at the time, was charging $98 for a 1 gigabyte bundle. We commended Africom for the move. The rich ISPs, the ZOLs and YOs and iWays didn’t like it a single bit, and they whined about it. The competition basically said it was unsustainable and that the model would crash soon. It didn’t. For one year at least it didn’t. And we all happily browsed the net.
But the boardroom squabbles started. And when they did, the writing was on the wall; the $18 Gig would go soon enough. Despite claims by Africom staff that the company could sustain it, we all knew it was a loss leader and it needed to drive adoption of the service fast so the company could make revenue from the 11 cents per megabyte out-of-bundle service.
It didn’t. And it was mostly Africom’s fault; they let people buy multiple first bundles so there was really never any need for a customer to use the out-of-bundle service.
So, yes. It did crash.
Africom announced last night they are upping the price from $18 to $25 for the first gigabyte, a package they call MiChoice. To compensate for this they’ll reduce the out-of-bundle price from 11 cents per megabyte to 5 cents. In the following SMS they sent out to subscribers, they made it sound like this means lower prices for customers. It does not. And doesn’t need to; Africom needs to make money.
Africom has slashed the price of the commercial data rate from $0.11c per megabyte to $0.05c. This low rate can be accessed when the first contractual data bundle (1 Gig or any as per your contract) has been exhausted. To enhance your value, please note also that the price for MiChoice 1 Gig will now change from $18 to $25 including VAT. These changes are with effect from 6 February 2012.
For very low usage customers this is still an ok deal. It’s still the lowest priced first gigabyte on the market. But for 2 gigabytes-going-up usage customers, choosing Africom is not the no-brainer it used to be. Brodacom, YoAfrica, Aptics and ZOL all offer ‘unlimited’ one user mobile broadband packages in the range of $50 a month. 5 cents per MB is also in the same range mobile operators Telecel and NetOne are selling some of their packages.
As other operators slash prices, Africom is upping them.