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Telecel admits: “Mobile wars” accounted for subscriber loss in 2013

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Telecel Markting Director, Octivius Kahiya
Telecel Markting Director, Octivius Kahiya

Telecel hasn’t found it easy in recent months and subscriber numbers released by POTRAZ indicate that the MNO has suffered from the effects of a turbulent 2013. During last year’s licensing impasse last year, the country’s largest MNO Econet Wireless disconnected Telecel arguing that there was no legal obligation on their part to connect with an unlicensed operator.

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Although no figures are readily available to reveal the extent of the damage, Telecel Marketing Director Mr Octivius Kahiya confirmed to Techzim that, “the figures did take a dip following the very unfortunate events with one of the operators in this market”.

Whilst Telecel moved swiftly to squash renewed claims that it still hadn’t paid its license, mobile penetration data released by POTRAZ showed that Telecel is gradually losing ground on its traditionally held position as Zimbabwe’s second largest MNO and Econet’s most formidable competitor.

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The data released by POTRAZ on show that Telecel is growing slower compared to competitors Econet Wireless and Netone. In fact, the latest year-on-year figures show that Telecel slightly dropped subscribers. In Q4 2012 Telecel had 2,582,154 subscribers dropping to 2,544,339 in Q4 2013. This represents a 37,815 drop in subscribers.

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Netone silently watched from the sidelines as the battle between Telecel and Econet unravelled. Although there is little to suggest they directly benefited from the confrontation, Netone will be pleased with the latest stats.

“The second biggest MNO tag” is well within NetOne’s reach as the stats show that the state owned MNO in now just under 100000 subscribers from eclipsing Telecel. Netone was significantly behind Telecel on subscribers a little over a year ago closing the gap gradually from 564,425 subscribers in Q4 2012 to 331.021 subscribers in Q1 2013 and finally just under 100,000 in Q4 2013. There’s not much separating the two now.

Econet Wireless added a whooping half a million more subscribers in the same period retaining their position unchallenged and it would appear, unscathed.

With regards to the validity of the latest POTRAZ figures, Telecel is concerned that “some MNOs report “connected subscribers” instead of the “active subscribers” that Telecel is strickly obliged to report by is parent company VimpelCom. So in Telecel’s view, the comparison may not be on a “like with like” basis.

However, this does little to distract the glaring losses Telecel suffered at the hands of Econet.

According to Mr Octivius Kahiya, Telecel has 4.53 million connected subscribers which means the company is only converting 56% of these to active subscribers. We are not sure of the industry accepted conversion rate but it does appear a large number of Telecel’s “connected subscribers” are not using the service.

We do know that the disconnection from Econet rendered many Telecel sim unusable for a significant period and in Telecel’s own admission, the move by Econet gave Telecel a “knock” but the company remains positive.

Our core key performance indicators (KPIs) did take a knock from which we have since largely recovered. This is because over the years we have developed a very strong relationship with our customers. Current performance shows that we have retained a significant portion of our subscribers and more subscribers are coming from competition and joining our network.

Octivious Kahiya, Telecel Marketing Director

Telecel’s will try to turn around their fortunes by prioritizing high value subscribers and according to them, the move is paying off so far.

It is pertinent to point out that an increasing portion of these new subscribers are high value corporate customers, premised on the back of our new and highly popular Telecel Red and Telecel Business offerings. While we will always aim to acquire as many subscribers as possible, we are also now very mindful of the quality of the subscribers we try to attract to our network. We believe our revenue market share has improved significantly in spite of the flat subscriber base growth due to this new focus.

Recent market trends indicate that Telecel’s biggest foe, Econet Wireless is already angling for these so called “high value subscribers”. Telecel is also set to challenge Econet’s mobile money dominance with the impending launch of it own brand of mobile money – Telecash.

Brace yourselves, all indications show that it will be business as usual in 2014. The prospects of continued warfare remain high.


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4 thoughts on “Telecel admits: “Mobile wars” accounted for subscriber loss in 2013

  1. This make sense now because most of my friends I know are moving to Netone or Telecel because of the promotions

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