If you haven’t been using your Econet line for the past 6 months be warned, the operator wants to disconnect your SIM card. This is according to a notice given by the mobile operator today.
Econet is giving holders of such SIM cards exactly one week to recharge their lines to show that they are active. It’s fairly normal practice for operators to cull out inactive lines. Usually, it’s been the operator Telecel moving to cut off unregistered subscribers.
What’s significant in Econet’s case though is that it has a huge number of inactive lines. This can be explained by the Dual SIM ownership phenomenon that is a part of Zimbabwean telecoms. A good indicator of this is the difference between actual mobile penetration and the figures on SIM card ownership.
In industry reports from the local telecoms regulator POTRAZ, Econet mainatins about 9 million subscribers, with 3 million of this total being inactive lines. This is the same 9 million subscriber total Econet reported in its annual financial results.
Assuming that these numbers haven’t changed that much in the past few months, Econet is effectively triggering a disconnection of millions of subscribers. But it looks more like an opportunity the operator is seizing to shore in literally a couple of millions in airtime recharges. If two-thirds of Econet’s inactive subscribers recharge, that’s $2 million in airtime revenue in the next week, money that hasn’t been coming in at all.
So will these subscribers respond?
Despite the huge outcry that Econet has drawn in the past month over price increases on some of its popular services like the Social Media bundles, lots of subscribers won’t be so quick to discard their Econet SIM card just yet.
There’s a segment of subscribers in the diaspora that have held on to the Econet SIM card because of the convenience of resuming communication with their contacts whenever they come back home. Sure, this is not unique to Econet only, but with its large subscriber totals and the services that Econet has introduced for the diaspora market, there are lot of SIM card holders that face some disruption there.
The comments that have been posted on Facebook in response to Econet’s announcement show a lot of queries being raised by SIM card holders that aren’t in the country at the moment. Econet has been advising these subscribers to get their lines topped up through an EcoCash recharge or through a direct top up to their lines from someone else’s number.
Another reason why Econet will probably retain these subscribers is the fact that an Econet line is, after all, the gateway to EcoCash. In terms of product addition and mobile money convenience, EcoCash remains the service to beat because of add-on facilities, an extensive agent network and more strides in inclusion with mobile commerce facilities across a gamut of industries.
Still, there’s also the off-chance inactive subscribers might not respond. This is something that Econet is probably willing to risk, otherwise it would have offered these inactive subscribers an incentive like what Telecel did some years ago, just to get them to fall back in love with its network.