What mobile banking USSD functionality exactly do banks want from Econet?

   

So after publishing a number of articles on the situation between the banks and Econet, about neutral access to the Econet GSM network, we’ve received a number of questions about  what exactly the banks are being denied and what they want from Econet. So far we’ve talked of limited USSD functionality. Thought we could dedicate a post that, so here we go.

First, some background. The banks use one common switching platform for traditional ATMs, Point of Sale devices, mobile device based transactions (mobile banking) and internet payments. This platform, which is supplied by ZimSwitch is called ZimSwitch Share Services, and the mobile component is a USSD (a menu interface like EcoCash’s, used to do stuff like sending money, buying airtime etc…) is what the banks need to provide to their customers through the Econet network.

The problem so far is that Econet is limiting what menu items bank customers can see on their phones, a bid to not give services competing with EcoCash free rein on a network whose building they sweated and teared for. Especially seeing how bright a payments control future that services built around EcoCash promise the company.

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When you access the service the main menu offered by all the networks, including Econet, is the same. Here’s a typical main menu an Econet subscriber will see when they access a bank’s mobile service:

econet-zipit-main
The ZimSwitch mobile banking main menu on the Econet network. Essentially the same as all other networks

And below is what a bank customer accessing the service from the Telecel network will see. Like we said. the menus are the same so far. (menu is continued in second picture:

zipit-telecel-th
The ZimSwitch mobile banking main menu on the Telecel network. Essentially the same as the Econet one.

The problem is clear when you select the 6th option (ZIPIT). ZIPIT is basically supposed to let you transfer money from your bank account to any cellphone or another bank account. The Econet subscriber will see this: only an option to transfer to a regular bank account.

econet-zipit-menu
Econet ZIPIT menu, with no “To Cellphone” option

A subscriber on any other network however will see the below, an option to transfer to a cellphone in addition to the bank option.

Telecel ZIPIT menu - a Telecel subscriber can send money from their bank acocunt to any cellphone
Telecel ZIPIT menu – a Telecel subscriber can send money from their bank account to any cellphone

The banks essentially want that “To Cellphone” option under the ZIPIT menu to also be available to Econet subscribers. So far, it looks like Econet is agreeable to this and the only sticking point is how much Econet is charging for a ‘ZIPIT to Cellphone’, apparently much more than all other types of USSD transactions that the banks do.


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