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Telecel subscribers to buy content from Google Play store using airtime

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Soon, Telecel subscribers will be able to buy content from the the Google Play online store using their airtime. The announcement was made today by the Russian Telecel parent company, VimpelCom.

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According to the announcement, the company has struck a deal with search giant Google to enable subscribers across the VimpelCom operations to buy multimedia content and applications from the Google Play store using airtime as payment.

The Google Play store has android applications, games, music, movies and other multimedia content users can either get for free or pay. So far the only way to access such content in most markets has been via major credit cards like VISA and Mastercard and American Express.

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However, as the culture of using credit cards in Zimbabwe is somewhat limited to a select few, such applications remain largely inaccessible to the bulk of the subscribers. It’s not that getting a credit or debit card is a difficult process, no, just that the general market is not accustomed to using them and therefore do not consider it an available option. Enabling subscribers to just use their airtime will therefore significantly open up access.

VimpelCom understands this reality is true for a lot of the markets they operate in. The company has operations in Algeria, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Georgia, Cambodia, amoung many other countries in Asia, Europe and North America. “The collaboration with Google will provide our customers around the world with a convenient way to access and pay for millions of apps, games and songs, significantly enhancing the smartphone experience in countries where banking and credit card services are not widely used” says VimpelCom’s Group Chief Commercial Officer, Mikhail Gerchuk, in the announcement.

In terms of when the service will be available locally, the announcement doesn’t specify beyond “later on this year.”

Direct carrier billing for Google Play application and multimedia purchases is nothing new. Google already provides this service in the US (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile), the UK (Vodafone, T-Mobile), Spain (Vodafone), Germany, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.


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16 thoughts on “Telecel subscribers to buy content from Google Play store using airtime

  1. How sad. Their deal does nothing for our local content creators. All it does in a country with 90% unemployment is just suck the forex out of Zimbabwe.

    1. i beg to differ. what it does is offer an opportunity for local content creators.
      e.g. hypothetically let’s say Herald or the Standard decides to offer an android app for their publications, they can now target the zimbawean android market. when the service is available, i can buy the “Herald app” easily.
      if i may ask what phone do use?

      1. I hate to admit it, but I have to agree with @Prosper. The facts are that Google has a list of countries in which developers can get paid for their apps[1] – none of those countries are in Africa.

        I dabble with Android development, and the only way to monetize your App, if in Zim/Africa, is to put ads in it and give it out for free (well, at least on the Google Play Store, formerly the Android Market). So this does,in fact, just sucks forex out of ZimbabweAfrica, until local devs are allowed to receive payments. Granted, Google has to navigate a lot of financial/banking laws to set this up – frankly, I’m not holding my breath.

        *edit* Maybe sucking out forex isn’t all it does, I do appreciate the upside of people without credit cards being able to easily buy the apps they want. But it does nothing for the local developer

        1. http://support.google.com/googleplay/android-developer/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=150324

        1. thanks for the link, that i didn’t know that. That is quite surprising and disturbing, are our financial institutions that difficult to deal with? But still i think it is a step in the right direction, eventually merchant accounts will come to Africa, and the right setup will be there already.

          *edit. Also this is a very good opportunity for telcos to setup content stores for local developers, musicians, etc, for local content and charge commission, they have a head start if they want to grab the chance.

        2. I agree with almost everyone in that it is frustrating that the dev community can only develop free apps for now. I also enquired alot on the topic as I also do android development.

          I will have to look for a google support thread that gave an account of experiences setting up such services.

          You are quite right!

          The financial industry in ANY COUNTRY has layers of bureaucracy, policies and compliance issues. Many of which are governed by law. It is an extremely involving effort to get any services you may have in it approved…. What is even worse for African countries like ours, is that ecommerce is not yet recognised as mainstream to the economy. So laws and policies have not yet been put in place to deal with regulating financial activities that are done online. Even a simple issue like “who gets the tax” can have Government regulators walking away from any discussions relating to electronic payments.

          It is a whole load of blabber, but that these are the deterrents.

          For countries that recognice ecommerce, that have laws to protect victims and have regulations to watch such industries, it is not as difficult to set up such services.

          For the rest of us,…we just have to wait. Or watch new App markets like MTN and Samsung….there are others too

          From the link you posted, you can see that not even Kenya, the darling of African ICT innovations, is not there. Not even South Africa

        3. Thanks for that link. You complain about this presumably because you would like to be able to sell your apps and make money, right? (This of course implies that your apps are worthwhile or at least desirable and we would happily to pay money to use.)
          I understand the main advantages of being able to sell via Google or Apple but considering there are only 31 supported countries on that list, what’s to stop you or others from creating an independent app store? I’d say you have a fairly large pool of developers to service. How does this all really work?

    2. It is my forex i will be using.I can buy whatever i want anywhere i want speak for yourself thank you

  2. Hoooray, thanks Telecel. This is a great start. Cmon you naysayers dont rush to look at the worst side of this. How can we hope to get paid for apps when our potential zimbabwean customers couldn’t interact with the market place in the first place on this level? We are no longer irrelevant. Once we provide a revenue stream that gives us leverage to expect better conditions and service as. At the end of the day its a business and Zimbabwe was bringing nothing to the table but our hungry mouths. That has to mean something.

  3. I dont get trolls on the internet like Prosper that come just to post negative comments on positive developments…clearly some people will never “prosper” because they see themselves as being so entitled and deserve barriers on international products so that his lacking ideas will find somewhat of a customer base.

    1. He is not trolling. Misuse of a word.

      He is actually bringing to the foe a hot issue against Android app ecosystem. Though it is not something that can be fixed by way of a decision

    2. I couldnt agree more every negative statement posted below aims at taking away innovation being churned out at Telecel and the fact the android is the most popular smartphone platform, looking at countries that have this direct billing available maybe one or two are not first world countries and for such a product to come to third world Zimbabwe should be an indication of the potential that is in the country for such a service, why is it so hard to be glad when Telecel is doing things right, is it such a terrible network?

  4. Ok and what is Econet doing for its subscribers? Nothing.
    What a waste of a company

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