Subscribers matter and I guess for each of our local mobile network operators that are out to wrench us from the other two networks, we really mean a lot to their bottom line.
That $6 you spend on WhatsApp and Facebook every month or the $1 top up to make calls is a significant boost for Average Revenue Per User (ARPU), the true indicator of performance for mobile networks at the end of the day.
The end result; MNOs try to get you to pledge some sort of allegiance to their network, something that is a huge challenge locally. After all, a huge part of the market is comfortable with owning SIM cards from the different networks and switching to the one offering the best deal at that moment.
Which is the reason why, in the absence of POTRAZ regulated number portability, you had Telecel coming up with their number matching service to give subscribers of other networks (Econet more that NetOne really) reason to cross over to Telecel without changing their phone number drastically, something that has always been cited as a great inconvenience.
Now NetOne is on the same tip. Their value proposition is the same. Move over to NetOne and retain the last 5 or 6 digits of your current number. Like Telecel number matching, this translates to
“Make us your default service provider, we’ll make the transition as painless as possible because you won’t have to change the digits on that Econet number.”
Both NetOne and Telecel are gunning for the large share of subscribers that Econet commands. Even after a clarification of active versus non-active subscribers, Econet outpaces both NetOne and Telecel’s combined totals by over 1,5 million subscribers.
To get the subscriber numbers, you need to compete on value
I hardly think that subscribers are concerned all that much by the change in numbers that much. We are a multi-SIM country, after all. Yes, it is a concern, but that shouldn’t be the focus of any campaign to get subscribers. The only way any of these MNOs are going to be able to draw subscribers to their networks is by increasing the value proposition they offer.
Econet, the market leader managed to grow its subscriber base on the strength of delivering the widest connectivity and presence in more parts of Zimbabwe than its competition. This took a lot of investment (something that any investor in telecoms has to consider) and at the time the biggest issue was whether or not you would be able to make and receive calls on the particular network.
Things have changed, and judging from how Telecel dropped subscriber numbers it’s no longer about just offering lower prices and bonuses either. We have a more discerning type of mobile subscriber. They know that all three operators aren’t offering out-of-the-world services and switching just for the sake of it won’t guarantee any better service next door. So how should they be drawn in?
The race is now focused on the variety of services and the allure of continued use of these same services. Which aptly explains the scramble for the rollout of new services going on at Msasa. Yup, there is some logic behind the over-diversification “madness” we’ve seen in the past year. While all of the services don’t warrant any applause, it shows a long-term view of how the cheese is moving.
Mobile telecoms providers in Zimbabwe are the gatekeepers to internet access and for all purposes, the greatest representation of e-commerce. Which is why data services and m-commerce, as growing focus areas, are supposed to be the carrot that these networks should be focused on improving.
Will NetOne and Telecel figure that out and offer people reason to move over/cross over and join their respective networks? We’ll just have to see if they work on their value proposition really. Until that happens, no amount of portability or number switching ease will cause a mass exodus from one network to another.