Telecel announces 911 Road Assist VAS. What problem does it solve?

Telecel’s 911 Road Rescue. Do you see it as useful?

Telecel has introduced a new emergency response facility, which it has called 911 Road Assist.  Subscribers can use the facility to summon assistance in the event of a vehicle breakdown, a road accident or any other on-the-road emergency.

In the event of a road emergency, subscribers to 911 Road Assist can dial *160# and the service will send an SOS like message to four numbers the subscriber would have prescribed. And the service ends there!

This paid service will see Telecel deduct $0.50 from signed up subscribers. Here’s an extract from the release we received from Telecel.


A request for assistance will then automatically be sent to four numbers that the subscriber has previously selected as the numbers to be contacted in the event of an emergency.

The numbers could include emergency services, such as a company that provides roadside assistance, or personal contacts who the subscriber can rely on to assist in the event of an emergency.

To register for 911 Road Assist, subscribers dial *160#, and follow the instructions for entering the four numbers they would wish to be contacted in an emergency.

The facility costs 50 cents per month, which is deducted from the subscriber’s airtime balance.

“Road emergencies can occur at any time. There is nothing worse than being stuck by the roadside struggling to contact someone,” commented Telecel Zimbabwe marketing director Octivius Kahiya.

“By subscribing to 911 Road Assist our customers can have the peace of mind of knowing that if they have a vehicle breakdown or are in need of any roadside assistance, all they have to do is dial *160# and their request for help will go to the four numbers they have specified when they registered for the service,” he said

What’s interesting is this value added service Telecel is offering is already comes standard with the regular subscriber service – SMSs.

It’s not quite clear what problem this VAS is solving. Particularly so when suppose I have a breakdown, getting the message to four people will not be immediately difficult nor will it solve my problem. My problem is solved when my car is towed or, in the event of an accident I get quick access to medical assistance. This service can’t do that and worse still, I already have options to call for road assistance without subscribing to an added service. Even when I don’t have airtime, I could possibly send call-me-backs or get an airtime advance from Telecel to contact road assistance or my trusted family or friends. The value proposition from Telecel is not clear here.

Maybe Telecel could have offered the service in a way that in the event of a breakdown or accident, subscribers can get access to road rescue services or paramedics that will not be paid for but covered by a premium subscription like insurance. Econet has been aggressive in offering insurance based VASs which Telecel is possibly trying to emulate

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