There has been a raft of changes to Zimbabwean telecoms over the past year, with adjustments in policy, product strategy and ownership dynamics. The overall impression is that more changes will occur in the short to medium term.
One aspect that hasn’t changed much, despite a lot of noise and half mentions, is the launch of a new telecoms operator. However, with the recent changes in infrastructure sharing, a new operator segment, the Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) is on the horizon. These are operators that utilise existing infrastructure and roll out services that match existing networks.
In other markets like South Africa where MVNOs like FNB Connect have been launched by financial institutions, these virtual opertaors compete aggressively with the existing players by going all out on service quality.
A Zimbabwean entrepreneur, Dzidzai Chidumba, has his eyes set on launching his own MVNO. Called Viva Mobile with a 2016 (hopeful) launch date, Chidumba says Viva Mobile is meant to disrupt the existing telecoms market by delivering better products and services. We caught up with him and asked some questions related to Viva Mobile.
How long have you been working on this new operator?
I had an AHA! Moment whilst I was working on Vodacom’s billing system in Cape Town. I have been refining the plan for 4 years to-date.
What type of MVNO will Viva be? Are you using the host partner approach?
Initially we will start of as a branded reseller, but will offer our own applications. We will target the 14 to 30 age group with personalized content and apps. We will evolve to become light MVNO with our own platform over time.
How independent is Viva going to be from its hosting partner?
We are going to be married to our host network.
Who else is working with you to roll out Viva? ie co-founders
Our team is comprised of MacDonald Mauchaza, Trevor Mazhandu, Tina Nyabonda, Molly Dokora, Anesu Induna, Taf Maira, Tatenda Dondo, Cecil Garapo Jr and Tanaka Mupfurutsa.
What sort of financial considerations have you had to meet leading up to the formation of Viva?
(1)I had to forgo a salary, sell my belongings and move back home to Zimbabwe “in faith”. (2)We also have consultant fees (3) design and collateral (4) marketing fees (5) CRM/ customer care platform (6) SEO agency (7) web hosting fees
What sort of technical considerations are also in the picture?
We need to take into account those technical factors imposed by the regulator POTRAZ as well as some constraints imposed by the operators we will be working with.
Do you have investors lined up to offer support for the costs involved?
Yes, we have a local investor and a foreign based investor.
What sort of requirements were put across by POTRAZ to get the licence?
By acting as a branded reseller we hope to satisfy all current POTRAZ requirements although you will be aware that these requirements may change from time to time.
Does the MVNO licence fall under the converged licence banner?
We need POTRAZ to define their way forward with the new initiative on “infrastructure sharing”.
Have you secured the licence?
We will operate as a branded reseller initially, similar to the arrangement Firstel had with Netone. When the laws align, we will apply for an MVNO licence.
What sort of services will you be offering?
All our services are prepaid with a deliberate focus on Data, but aimed at the 14 to 30 age bracket .
Was this project supported, or accelerated in any way by the government’s move on infrastructure sharing?
Yes tremendously, I think we will see a few other MVNOs launch as a result. In my opinion, it is a cost effective way for operators to acquire new customers and retain customers that may have churned.
When will your network be going live?
Our targeted launch date is in early 2016.
Have you been involved in other telecoms investments either locally or abroad?