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Econet introduces international voice bundles, faces competition from broadband alternatives

Local mobile operator Econet Wireless recently introduced International Voice Bundles which offer a discount on international voice call tariffs.

The bundles (available under the *140*4# menu) are specified for calls to 12 countries in Europe, Asia, and North America and they come with $1,50 and $2,50 options that offer 5 minute and 10-minute calls to both fixed and mobile call destinations. This translates to 30 cents a minute for the 5-minute bundle and 25 cents a minute for the 10-minute bundle.

This appears to be another attempt at maximising voice call revenue by zeroing in international traffic, a niche that Econet and other local mobile operators have tinkered with time and time again.

So far, it looks like international voice traffic has been facing the same depressed outlook that every other bit of voice communication has faced over the past few years. According to the latest industry report from the national telecoms regulator POTRAZ, international voice traffic recorded the highest decline in traffic.

At the end of the second quarter of 2015, international incoming traffic fell by 10.8% and international outgoing traffic, which is the service line targetted by these international voice bundles, fell by 8.8%.

By POTRAZ’s own admission alternatives such as Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook have contributed significantly to the decline in international voice call traffic. It’s something that anyone who communicates with people beyond our borders will easily admit to as well.

Any investment in a broadband solution will give a subscriber access to various options for communication with friends and family living abroad. Over The Top services like WhatsApp and Facebook that mobile operators like Econet have coincidentally been turning to as revenue streams through their social media bundles, are the leading alternatives for subscribers.

Both WhatsApp and Facebook have VoIP call features that might not be worth relying on for calls on local networks but offer a decent communication alternative when making calls outside the country.

Faced with an option to buy a monthly WhatsApp or Facebook bundle for $6 or paying $2,50 for 10 minutes worth of voice communication, the choice doesn’t seem to be that hard to make.

Besides mobile broadband options, service centres like internet cafés have also established themselves as places where people can pay as little as $1 for 40 minutes which can be used for a very interactive Skype call, something that trumps traditional voice communication.

WiFi hotspots that have been rolled out by various internet providers like ZOL, TelOne, Africom and Telco are also offering affordable and even free broadband options that further weaken the case for making international voice calls.

Still, in spite of all this, there are some people who will make that international voice call. These might be subscribers in areas where broadband coverage isn’t as extensive or more importantly, individuals without a smartphone in the first place.

With a national smartphone penetration that falls below 30%, this group actually forms a large part of Zimbabwe’s mobile subscribers. This is the one market that Econet and its competition are out to cater for with these bundles and international voice call promos.

It’s making the most from a shrinking market because sooner or later these subscribers will also buy that smartphone, move over to broadband alternatives and accelerate the death of traditional voice services.


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One thought on “Econet introduces international voice bundles, faces competition from broadband alternatives

  1. I think voice calls hav still got a place if the prices are right. There was time when my telco was charging almost $3 per minute to make a international call. I stayed clear from making direct calls.

    Now they changed and introduce bundles, $7 bundle gets me 50mins international calls. I now go through them quickly especially when talking to mbuya kumusha.

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