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Comment: Of stolen concepts & VAS

Yesterday’s “they stole our idea” issue is a story we hear often here at Techzim. Reading from what has been made publicly available by both parties so far, how this will progress and end is almost predictable. Telecel will say no to the US $340,000 settlement demand. In fact, they’d be silly to say yes. And, at some point in the battle, one of the two sides, and their name is not Telecel, will walk away losers.

But how this progresses is not material. The bigger picture is this whole relationship between mobile network operators and the VAS entrepreneurs. How justified is this entrepreneur in claiming Telecel stole his idea?  What happens when an entrepreneur approaches an MNO with concept they already had or one that they’ll logically implement at some point as soon as the time is right? What about those situations where an idea is a clear revenue earner but an MNO doesn’t ‘seem’ to know it until the entrepreneur explains the money flow. What about concepts that are already tried and tested in other markets?

All that is off the mark too, says Hilary Chindodo, the founder of Zimbabwe Investor. Here is his response to the issue on our Facebook page:

The issue is that MNOs should be compelled to allow VAS concepts from independents without them wanting to share in the premium amount. The VAS provider already pays the cost of the SMS to the MNO plus brings to the MNO traffic they wouldn’t otherwise have. Those 2 companies should just be able to do it as well as anyone else who wishes to. Most countries will have thousands of these types of premium rate competitions and it’s up to customers to choose those that give best value for money. You don’t even need any special arrangement with the MNO. Our MNOs are just taking advantage of an environment badly regulated and anti-competition.

We’d add that having a network agnostic VAS platforms between the entrepreneurs and the MNOs. In other countries they refer call it VAS aggregator or some other variation of the term. Entrepreneurs will just need to talk to this company. The important things is to make this guy commercial too (as opposed to just a regulator) so he has an incentive to get as many applications on his platform as possible and to make the process of implementing a news service for entrepreneurs as straightforward as possible.

It will be this guy’s job to have agreements with the MNOs and develop a robust system to plug into the different MNOs’ networks. This guy will have a range of thousands of short codes that he can issue out in minutes of paying him for one. His actions are governed by this.

It’s something like what Twenty Third Century Systems promised they were building more than a year ago. Maybe the e-Goverment contract got engaged them so much they threw everything else out the window.

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