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Zimbabwean telecoms is changing, isn’t it time for an MVNO?

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The statistics in terms of Voice consumption in Zimbabwe have been rather disturbing and there are no prospects of improving soon. The situation is not peculiar to Zimbabwe only, regionally telecoms has been struggling.

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Among the initiatives that the operators have implemented is the operational cost reduction that has resulted in some Mobile Network Operators dismissing staff using the labour court judgement. Econet outright demanded that its suppliers reduce their pricing among a variety of measures in the sector. In addition, the government has been pushing for Infrastructure Sharing insisting that it will help the sector recover.

One angle though that we haven’t seen in the Zimbabwe telecoms especially is the idea of compounded services through a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) who would make efforts to recoup revenues on the unused capacity present or being created by loss of voice traffic.

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There are unarguably high levels of dissatisfaction from customers due to the Quality of Service (QoS) being delivered currently and the right type of MVNO with the right set of products would utilise the free frequencies from the networks and at the same time excite customers with a fresh bouquet of products. After all, with less worries concerning infrastructure, their penetration point would be customer orientation and satisfaction.

Another factor to consider is also how the operators have not yet found a formula to anticipate the imminent data boom. This could be because they are not exciting the growth by offering the enablers such as mobile phones and devices at affordable prices, and they have not yet set a basic standard or precedence in terms of data consumption outside of the promotions.

MVNOs could come in to deal with that particular challenge by simply buying bulk broadband and distributing it through the current infrastructure from a perspective that serves an identified niche such as those with a need to stay connected via the mobile phone as a primary device. Currently operators have to satisfy their various customers with generic blanket packages as if the needs are the same.

Another unique opportunity driven by consumer trends that MVNOs could bank on is the advent of VOD via mobile. In South Africa Naspers has already begun establishing its ShowMax platform in that space.

One major development in telecoms in the short term is infrastructure sharing, another enabler for an MVNOs. Within the next few years, there will be a vacuum created by sharing and opening up infrastructure which an operator can use to penetrate the Zimbabwean market.

According to the regulator, POTRAZ, the pricing structure in operators is flexible enough to allow MVNOs in that they are simply required to justify their costs and margins.

For the MVNO, this becomes a simple case of retailing via packaging engaging products and services. I am convinced that subscribers are willing to pay good money as long as they are guaranteed of good service especially in long-term mobile data packages that are not promotions.

Perhaps one of the limitations of setting up an MVNO in Zimbabwe is the funding. POTRAZ requires its share and the business itself requires sufficient outlay to cater for a robust billing system, a good customer interface system and technical expertise, for starters. It is estimated 40% of all MVNOs fail withing 2 years due to lack of adequate funding and technical resources.

Yet to be proven is the idea that MNOs are unwilling to partner an MVNO because of the fear that it would offer better services than they are doing on their infrastructure. While this is a genuine concern in terms of territorial space, the benefits of a runner peddling your airtime far outweigh the image liability.

While this is a genuine concern in terms of territorial space, the benefits of a runner peddling your airtime far outweigh the image liability. In fact, some operators encourage internal competition by setting up the MVNO itself as a separate subsidiary.

That way, customers are ring fenced by being presented with two distinct brands and options from the same network. All the same, depending on the outcome of the infrastructure sharing debate, that hindrance may cease to exist.

Whatever the reasons are that MVNOs have not yet setup in Zimbabwe, (telecoms investment experts will likely know better), I am convinced that this stage in telecoms with all the disruptions taking place is ripe for a new lite player. I wouldn’t mind paying some figure like $20 a month for good voice and data. Wouldn’t you?

image credit: mvnoblog.com


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One thought on “Zimbabwean telecoms is changing, isn’t it time for an MVNO?

  1. Who among our the three MNOs will be willing to lease their infrastructure to a MVNO? The costs would be high enough such that they wont make any sensible business case. The reason I say this is our MNOs have incurred huge costs in setting up and operating their networks (both CAPEX and OPEX wise) by constructing access roads to most of their base stations and having standby generators running almost the greater part of the day due to lack of supply from the main grid. These costs coupled with the hefty License fees have impacted on their ROI. So the idea of entertaining a MVNO who will get a slice of their pie is a no no. In other developed countries where MVNOs seem to be the way forward, government plays a significant role in providing consistent power supplies and building access roads, giving the necessary infrastructure and conducive environment for Telcos to operate

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