Two months ago, Artwell Mataranyika the Aquiva Wireless chief operations officer told us their telecoms company would be launching VoIP service by April. He said they were actually ready to launch on the technical front but had to finalize commercial interconnection agreements to with incumbent operators.
Yesterday we received an update from the company that they have been interconnected with Econet Wireless commercially and that they did so before April as promised. “The link is stable and has performed well, we have started connecting subscribers to the link and all feedback we have got to date from our subscribers is great” said the statement we received. Interconnection with Telecel, NetOne and Telecel has not been secured yet.
Aquiva joins a number of VoIP providers on the market that include Gigatel, Telecontract and Econet itself. Tariffs for VoIP services are significantly lower than those for GSM mobile services. POTRAZ, the Zimbabwe telecoms regulator has approved on-net calls (calls within the network) at US 6 cents per minute and off-net calls at 12 cents per minute. GSM operators NetOne, Econet and Telecel all charge a minimum of 23 cents per minute for a call.
The one major issue with VoIP operators so far however has been securing interconnection agreements the incumbent GSM operators and the fixed line operator TelOne. The new operators (including CDMA operators) have been complaining that the incumbents are not keen to connect and basically delay the process for as long as they can. Until POTRAZ forces them to move or a POTRAZ stipulated period for an activity is about to expire that is. What we have observed so far is that the one mobile operator that all new VoIP providers manage to secure an interconnection with is Econet Wireless. Maybe it’s because they focus on interconnecting with Econet so they can access the 70% mobile market share Econet commands. Or maybe unlike the other incumbents, Econet is trying to play fair with the new competition.