I have been a member of the Powertel mobile family since 2010. My three friends and I were fourth year Accounting students at the University of Zimbabwe. Econet had just scrapped their $25/month unlimited package as they moved from what was perhaps a testing phase into the big leagues.
As poor college students we wanted an internet connection to help with our research since we had a crappy university connection that sought to connect 14 000 students to the internet via a Telone VSAT at 1.5 Mbps.
Ingrained in our accounting DNA was the need to be able to anticipate and manage our internet costs in advance. We pooled our funds, bought a modem and paid the subscription.
The modem, if I still recall cost us $150 and the subscription $50 so each one of us chipped in with $50. Each month we would take turns to use the modem and the one laptop that we had to research.
Most of the accounting textbooks in the main library were hopelessly outdated and I doubt I, nor my friends for that matter, would have done as well as we did if we did not have this useful, if somewhat intermittent internet connection.
I left college a while back and in 2012 I bought my own modem. Powertel might not have had the fastest or most reliable internet connection but it was affordable and its cost predictable as it satisfied my pathological need to control costs.
I feel the need to say that I am not a bandwidth hog. I do not leave my computer on at night running torrents nor do I indiscriminately download every file that I can get my hands on.
I use the connection to download a couple of Linux ISOs a year, update my antivirus, update my Ubuntu installations, watch a few videos and a couple of other downloads.
I just don’t like having to fret over what I am going to spend on my internet. I would be happy to spend $50 as I used to do back then instead of $35 so long as I do not see the words bundle on my bill.
What many will find irksome however is how sudden and fundamental this change is. I know most ICT companies are control freaks themselves, they create these burdensome Terms and Conditions which places a lot of responsibilities on the customer and consumer and reserve all the power to themselves.
If you do not believe me just read your cellphone Network provider’s Terms and Conditions; you will be shocked by what you signed up for. What prevents most service providers from acting as erratically as Powertel is doing is the fear of losing customers.
Every change in price is a balancing act. The principle of elasticity of demand is used to try and predict the overall effect of a business’s price changes to Total sales.
Prices of such things as toll fees and airtime can be seen as being inelastic, to a certain extent. When the government increased these fees and introduced an airtime tax the effect, I expect, would be inelastic as people still have to make calls.
Internet charges are a different matter however they do tend to be elastic. A price change, which is effectively what Powertel is doing, will likely lead to a serious fall in Total Sales Revenue collection as people either cut back on their spending or leave the company in droves. I am not sure but I think this move is in line with the government’s desperate need to raise more money for their Consolidated Funds.
I believe currently each leading mobile Internet Service Provider has its own selling points.ZOL has its awesome mobile WiMax, Econet has its elite brand and the WhatsApp bundles, Telecel has their promotions and WhatsApp bundles, Africom its great service and phone deals, NetOne has ummm… I don’t know, something.
The thing is that every company has its own tag line and selling point and Powertel’s was that they could give you unlimited internet for a fixed price; recently $1.20.
I wonder how they are going to sell it now: they don’t have all those other bells and whistles like WhatsApp bundles and their voice service does not appear to be interconnected even though its $1 cheaper than Africom. How are they going to sell it and prevent what is going to be an undoubtedly a massive exodus?
I doubt they even know considering a lot of their ads including online ads are still touting the $1.20 (50 cents per day) deal. It may be that even their marketing department was caught unawares by this change and did not have enough time to craft a new message.
The current ads are now totally misleading even fraudulent considering the u-turn from Powertel. I wish them the best pushing their new bundles. Personally I think its a bad idea. Like a lot of people, I have been wrong, but this time I feel confident enough to say the bundle model is a terrible idea from Powertel.
God,how are they going to sell this?
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