Zimbabwe and regional technology news and updates


New Zimbabwean network operator, Viva Mobile, to launch next month – promises affordable data, online TV

Viva Mobile Zimbabwe

After four years of preparation, Viva Mobile, a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) is finally ready to launch in Zimbabwe and will be going live in March 2016.

The founder and CEO, Dzidzai Chidumba confirmed that his team would be rolling out by the end of next month and their main focus will be the provision of data services that offer subscribers value for money.

News about Viva Mobile first surfaced in September last year, when the team behind the network shared some information about the upcoming service.

When it goes live, Viva Mobile will be the country’s first MVNO. The virtual network operator format works by allowing an independent operator to utilise another’s existing infrastructure while rolling out its own services that match existing networks. 

It’s literally piggybacking on existing infrastructure which allows a new operator to launch services for a fraction of the cost while providing the holder of the infrastructure an opportunity to generate revenue from infrastructural lease agreements.

This approach has been embraced in other countries as a way of introducing competition in the market and diversifying the playing field while encouraging an improvement in service quality and product range from every other operator.

POTRAZ, the Zimbabwean telecoms regulator, is still in the process of overhauling its licencing framework to accommodate the changes in the industry that include the advent of operator structures like MVNOs that allow for the inclusion of competing services built on networking sharing arrangements.

As such, Viva Mobile’s launch has been green-lit by the same regulations that allowed for the launch of service providers like Firstel under the auspices of NetOne. When the new regulations are gazetted Viva Mobile will apply for the new licence.

Chidumba hopes that the process won’t be complicated and says that so far POTRAZ has proved to be competent in dealing with the realities of a changing telecoms environment. Viva Mobile offered its own recommendations when the regulator invited stakeholders to provide input last year and now as they offer their services to the public, they will be waiting to see what happens at the next regulatory stage.

What can people look forward to from Viva Mobile?

Viva Mobile

What sort of services does Viva Mobile have in mind? According to its preliminary product brief, its main offering will be the prepaid voice and data plans called Wild Fruit, as well as Mobile WiFi service that uses MiFi devices that most people are now familiar with from the existing telecoms operators.

Wild Fruit Prepaid Plan

Matamba/Monkeys' Orange9.993 GB100Unlimited30 Days
Tsubvu/ Chocolate Berry19.996 GB500Unlimited30 Days

Wild Fruit Extra

Voice Extra100 Minutes4.9930 Days
Data Extra1 GB4.9930 Days

Mobile Wi-Fi

Small(S)3 GB2.9930 Days
Medium(M)10 GB7.9930 Days
Large(L)50 GB24.9930 Days

The pricing is competitive and outside promotions that have been launched by Zimbabwe’s three mobile operators (Econet, NetOne and Telecel) Viva Mobile will be providing the cheapest combos from voice, data and text.

Interestingly Viva doesn’t have any social media bundles (WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter) for its lineup, something that is supposed to be an expression of its philosophy about freedom and not restricting users to a particular application.

According to Chidumba Viva Mobile is all about freedom and doing data right. he also believes that social media bundles aren’t the best representation of internet for subscribers who shouldn’t pay for something that restricts them since the internet has a lot more to offer.

Viva Mobile will also offer TV

Viva Mobile Zimbabwe

It’s not just the data bundles that Viva will be focusing on, though. Viva Mobile subscribers will also be able to access premium live, linear and catch-up TV on their mobile devices through a service called UhuruTV. The service is set at $9.99 a month with promises to offer access to more than 40 international channels.

This puts Viva in direct competition with every VOD service that is trying to carve out some territory in the virgin African internet TV space.

Other than heavyweights like Netflix that have already entered Zimbabweans’ living rooms, and a yet-to-be-seen-in-Zimbabwe ipidi TV, Econet Wireless, the country’s largest mobile operator has also proclaimed its intentions to enter this space in 2016 with its Kwesé TV, legitimising its proposal with a partial launch on its Kwesé Sports channel.

Is Viva Mobile ready to handle voice and data market share tussles while solving the partially complete African VOD puzzle? Is its team geared for the operational challenges that have been creating nightmares for incumbent operators who have enjoyed brand growth and market visibility for over a decade? Can they outperform trends that place MVNO success at only 40% in the first 2 years?

That’s a lot to figure out and it can only be answered when Viva starts operating. Despite the doubt, Chidumba feels very confident about their shot at disrupting the market. It’s a very encouraging startup exuberance which can only come from an entrant that is out to prove that the telecoms business in Zimbabwe can be handled differently.

He believes that Viva is a unique company and as a startup, they also have an opportunity to work with other new innovators.

We are not a carrier. We are a technology and content company. We are tapping into the dormant talent by acquiring locally relevant Apps. We understand start-ups because we are one. If there are developers or entrepreneurs who need a platform they can reach us.

The market is flooded with complaints about sub-par service quality, overpricing, anti-competitive behaviour and profiteering that subscribers are powerless to change. It’s everyone’s hope that Viva Mobile manages to change that by doing what successful MVNOs are good at – redefining competition.


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49 thoughts on “New Zimbabwean network operator, Viva Mobile, to launch next month – promises affordable data, online TV

    1. TechZim does that pretty often. They dumb down and don’t ask the almost obvious questions. It’s like they get temporarily awed by whomever they cover.

      That said, it would be interesting to see how this pans out

    2. I don’t think VIVA has a network carrier partnership in place yet, simply because POTRAZ does not have a licensing framework/class for MVNOs yet. Firstel and Zellco were not MVNOs.

  1. How do you redefine competition when you are riding on someone else’s infrastructure. How do you get a handle on the QOS when you cant even access the hardware that you are riding on? This all depends on the infrastructure owners willingness for competition. I for one do not think econet wikl agree

  2. I suspect this is going to be running on africom or powertel. Econet would not buy into this, telecel has backhaul issues and IP transit constraints. NET*ONE would simply say well why don’t we do this ourselves.

    Now if it is Africom – coverage issues max download speed of 1.xMbps maybe a last ditch effort but the challenge has always been CDMA devices are not attractive. I do not know about powertel but remember iway pocket rocket died a death that was so quick it happened before the service was born as it were!

    looking at econet models most third party solutions think *FSH the SMS aggregator that does premier league bible verses etc, operates under the econet banner. It will be interesting to see who the infrastructure provider is.

    1. Well the devices they are offering for pre-order on the site are GSM Devices – with some LTE ones as well. Data seems to be a bit thing for them.

      1. Interesting point to note. Then again Africom did launch 4G in Chinhoyi… read up on that story!

      2. Interesting point to note. Then again Africom did launch 4G in Chinhoyi… read up on that story!

        That said – Customer Care number : 08644 201 943 – Africom!

        The sim card says – Already have a CDMA compatible unlocked phone? Replace your SIM card with a new Viva SIM card. Select the size you need and your phone will work great with any of our budget friendly prepaid plans. As a bonus we’ll give you 7 days free UhuruTV with over 40 channels.

        Huawei Ec5220 – Huawei EC5220 Rev.A Mobile wifi with SIM CDMA EVDO WiFi Router

        SMS unlimited looking at the site has a * next to it but no small print. Me thinks AFRICOM FOR SURE NOW

          1. LOL no chance!
            My combination hits the spot every month and I will not change a wining formula

            1. ZOL Mobile WiMAX – Unlimited Data $49.99 or 1Gb at a time for $7 fits in my suit pocket, laptop bag etc. I have my hotspot everywhere. Lasts about 6 hours so when I need to browse on the go during the day I am set.
            2. ZOL Fibroniks – Unlimited Package at home – All my updates done at home
            3. ZOL Fibroniks on the go – Updates on the go when I need to
            4. 1Gb-3Gb a month of LTE for my LTE device – I can share that hotspot or fall back to UMTS worst case.

            Now remember my internet bill at home is not just for me so it works out. If I do not want unlimited WiMAX mobile I can buy 1Gb for $7.
            LTE I can get $35 for 2.5Gb – plenty for Whatsapp calling, downloads on the go where there is no WiMAX. So I can even skip out on the Mobile WiMAX. I just like the mobile WiMAX because I can share it with one or two others during the day if we are in the same place.

            This is the story of my life not because I love ZOL, but they had the best deal.

            Personally I still and always will prefer iWAY (UTANDE) CIR WiMAX, but thats fixed and not mobile so until thats resolved, I use that link for Backup. I have since forgotten about Tel*One and yet to try Net*One LTE.

            No room for Africom, the compromise on the content I can download, speed, up time will never ever work for me. $25 a month will get me 4Gb of ZOL WiMax with everything included, or 1.75Gb of LTE!

        1. Yes, looking at the website, this number gives away the operator they will be riding on 08644 201 943….An Africom number…and it makes sense, Africom has been failing to assert itself in the retail market. This is their best chance to test the waters, through Viva…and maybe, just maybe ideas will start sparking in them.

  3. Interesting that there is no SMS bundle. Which network does not have SMS… AFRICOM! My money is africom is the partner

    1. We won’t be doomed. Unless you mean the video game. We wasted some of our youth on that game. ID Interactive #giveusbackouryouth… Lol

  4. If its not on Econet then death is already on its way. Econet looks like the only service provider which understand this.
    Depending on how much money they are willing to rent the infrastructure, they might be luck to get Econet.

    Its sad that Nigel writes this good doc and totally missed mongo wenyaya. Ndiyani wavachashandisa uye vachibhadhara marii??

    1. Hahaha Mac d econet is a stretch but I am hopeful. Remember the econet ecosystem has
      Zol wimax – unlimited 1mbps at 49 with the mifi dongle
      Econet mifi lte and dongle with capped use
      Liquid fiber…

      That said econet could say uncapped data bit introduce a pseudo cap by saying speed is 512kbps or 1mbps and then shape the daylight out of it.

      Surely their biz Dev team has done the calculations and that’s why pocket rocket was never on GSM

      1. Econet have the international links to fulfill Viva requirements, and l thinks they are the only ones. Also Econet have the national infrastructure coverage to make this a reality.

        Powertel is useless, they cannot even service the few clients they have because they only have that slow Bots international link which is not reliable.

        Africom their uplink provider looks like its TelOne, not sure yet bt Telone used to have a single 10G international link plus all other earthlinks.
        So choosing Africom might be a cheaper option and a bit reliable internation links, bt nationally, what is Africom coverage? I do not think it is that good.

          1. I did spoke to someone within Telone about cdma. They are not fully supporting it because they lack specialist knowledge to mantain the cdma network.

            About a week ago l was buying plugs for my car and l noticed a cmda handset on the table. I did ask how was there experience with it.

            The guy told that it never worked properly as a phone, always has issues and they mainly used it for internet access which they cannot get now, they hav tried to get it fixed without success.

            So if Viva goes TelOne way, they jus hav to discount cdma network.

            1. Let me clarify that statement. Tel*One has a GSM license and completely of record has a roaming / infrastructure sharing arrangement with NET*ONE … Can not cite sources
              But it has to do with the sale of NET*One to MTN
              Tel*One having access to towers and becoming the sole Government operator….

  5. and a typical Zimbabwean will criticize…personally ive had enuf of e existing operators robbing us.and l will switch 2 viva without qstn.and id sooo love 2 joins vivas engineering team.evrythn bwt is sounds interesting.

    1. If anything, I will be purchasing their LTE devices 🙂
      Pricing seems fair. Get from them use on xyz network.

      1. makes sense. But it wont hurt to give em a try, their data bundles seem ridiculously cheap.

        So i am on board, mainly for testing.

        1. Africom is Africom is Africom… lets call a spade a spade. You will never ever ever in your life get more than 3Mbps or 1.7Mbps sustained on EVDO. So my questions are
          has Africom addressed the power outages at their base stations
          do they have a backup route for the Harare Mutare IP transit link
          do they have a call center now?

          If the above has a single no, I am not interested. You pay $25 for unlimited access then get at best 10hours in a 30day space if you are un lucky. Read through Africom comments on other articles, people as far as Chitungwiza moan consistently about CDMA outages.

          I suppose its down to if you want to pay peanuts and get a monkey or not.
          Ideally Africom should have just focused on the Wimax platform in particular wimax D. Which they got down to a science as a last mile solution. I say this only because I have used it consistently and experienced possibly 99.9% up time when tapping into the pockets hill base station.

    1. We all wish him well considering his prices are very attractive! Hopefully he chose wisely his carrier isp.

          1. Why are you using .com emails. A service provider who cannot do the basics right!!

  6. with such generous data packages …. am in …both feet knee deep …. hope coverage n speeds will be good

    count me in

  7. I fail to see how they will launch a streaming service using unreliable networks. They can launch voice and 2G services (there is no real 3G in Zimbabwe! ) not data hungry services. Even Zol fibre fluctuates.

  8. Hi Llodza you can use the streaming service on any internet connection with a minimum of 700Kbps connection SD and 4Mbps HD. Watch on LTE, FTTx, ADSL it doesn’t matter. You just pay more if you do not have a Viva Mobile device $9.99 per month as opposed to $3.99 per month. Hope you will try us.

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