There’s something that a lot of Econet broadband subscribers have noticed in the past couple days. Econet has been advertising its latest service that was launched at midnight– An unlimited browsing promotion via the Opera Mini browser.
By dialing *143# subscribers are able to select an option for unlimited browsing for 24 hours which costs 40 cents or a 3 day period which is pegged at 95 cents. This offer does not extend to downloads and any links that direct a subscriber off the Opera Mini browser.
Econet has been in bed with Opera Mini before. Initially it was with a skinning of the Opera Mini browser that placed the Econet homepage as one of the bookmarks on the browser homepage, a move that Telecel pioneered back in 2012 together with free Facebook access.
This time Econet is out to monetise the popularity of Opera Mini, The browser is a preferred option for local, price sensitive mobile subscribers and the networks because it economises data use and is highly compatible with feature phones that make up the majority of the current mobile market spread in Zimbabwe.
At the end of the day it’s a win-win for Econet which, like every other network operator,is trying to create new cash streams in a business matrix that has receding voice revenue.
So what’s the catch here? What’s with the generosity from Econet all of sudden? First free Twitter now this? Are we really getting that “focus on value” commitment that is now the new Econet promise to its millions?
The thing is Econet gets to place a premium on a service that is already popular with their broadband subscribers but is supposed to be free anyway, package it neatly as a “promotion” and maintain certain Ts and Cs that protect the network from “abuse” (no downloads, links off Opera come at a premium).
This is just like how Facebook and WhatsApp that are meant to be free (albeit with the general data cost) actually cost subscribers a total $6 a month. Now with this new promotion there’s going to be an additional $9.50 per month from every willing subscriber courtesy of Opera Mini.
The end result is Econet’s ARPU shots up and so do revenues from broadband use that is set to be the new cash frontier now that the era of super profits from voice revenue is drawing to a close.
Yes, Econet still assumes some responsibility because the browsing still costs something to the network. But who are we kidding here. The “burden” of a free internet and OTT data services which is proving to be a challenge for networks is coming to our doorstep disguised as promotions that cost us rather than spare us.
It doesn’t look like there’s any relief for an overtaxed Zimbabwean subscriber. Data services that have been expensive all along will always be expensive, they just found a different way to make you pay for it all. It’s still a pig, they just put more lipstick on it.