Never run out of airtime, or is it get that airtime you need for that emergency call when your airtime has run out. As of Tuesday, selected Telecel prepaid customers (though for my check it seemed like everyone) can access an emergency $1 of airtime per request.
Though it isn’t an ‘innovation’ in the strictest sense as other operators such Cell C in South Africa have it, it is a first for Zimbabwean networks. Further to being convenient the new service is also very easy to use when compared to other operations such as purchasing of data bundles. Basically, Telecel customers can access the ‘$1 emergency airtime’ by simply dialing *143#.
In line with it being ‘emergency airtime’, users can only access it when they have an airtime balance of less than $0.10. Most probably to avoid abuse of the facility a user is only permitted to have an outstanding balance of $1, i.e. using the service once before paying up. The airtime is easily payable back through using the normal recharge cards or top up using mobile banking facilities.
The emergency credit of $1.00 will be highlighted in the advance balance section and the usual balance will now show -1.10, which I am sure most customers will read as 1.10 as I initially did.
Of course like any other Zimbabwean first mover “innovation”, it doesn’t come free; you are charged a 10 cents ‘service charge’ for the credit facility. While it might just be 10 cents, what it means is that every time you use the service you will now need to top up $2, so that your main balance has usable credit when you exhaust the emergency airtime.
This definitely is a great sales strategy on their part, which should bring in some revenues from those fortuitous calls which wouldn’t otherwise be made.
Personally, I feel that the $0.10 ‘service charge’ will however hinder uptake of this service. I for one would have loved the ability to get airtime in the comfort of one’s home or workplace not only for emergency calls but also when I just feel like making a call when recharge card agents are nowhere in sight, or just feeling too lazy to get a card. So unless a real emergency comes up, subscribers will most likely stick to the old recharge cards.