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Company Launches Free SMS Service in ZimbabwePosted by: admin on Thu, 2011-06-30 10:26
As mobile operators build infrastructure and upgrade services, a newcomer launches a free SMS service. If subscribers are willing to put up with ads at the end of their messages, that is. As texting has gotten more expensive in the country, this new product could fill a need. Tawanda Karombo reports.
Harare, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s telecommunications sector is set for a major boost following recent moves by both dominant and emerging companies. Of these, the introduction of a free text-messaging service being offered by a newcomer, Free SMS Zimbabwe, has the potential to be most popular with consumers.
Telecom sector players and investors are predicting the demand for telecommunications services will increase as the Zimbabwean economy begins to rebound. This is based on the belief that businesses, company executives and other senior management personnel will need reliable data and voice services.
The free SMS service is launching in a market already dominated by three major companies, Econet, Telecel and the state-controlled NetOne. Econet and Telecel, which introduced data services on its network a few months ago, are upgrading their services. And another newcomer, Telerix (owned by Masawara PLC), has been busy building infrastructure.
Free SMS Zimbabwe is launching its free text-messaging platform at a time when subscribers are shunning the traditional text message service offered by the three major mobile operators. Consumers have been opting for voice calls over texting since these firms introduced per-second billing last year. With the tariffs for a local SMS averaging US$0.10 cents, most subscribers prefer short voice calls as they can get immediate responses and most also say it is a bit cheaper to utilize per-second billing than texting.
Pearson Pfavayi, who is spearheading the free-SMS product, said that, in coming up with this project, his company, wanted to “upset the pricy texting” regime in Zimbabwe. The new free messaging platform will generate revenue through advertising. At the end of each text message (maximum 100 characters) there will be an advertising slot (maximum 60 characters).
Pfavayi believes the model of using ads to pay for the cost of sending an SMS will be successful because of the rate of mobile penetration in the country.
“With a ratio of 6:1 of mobile phone users to PC users in Zimbabwe and following the introduction of the 3G network and the fibre optic, the mobile web is growing at an alarming rate and companies do not want to miss targeting this new emerging market,” he said in a statement this week.
Only subscribers with web-enabled phones or access to a computer can use the free SMS service, though recipients of the texts do not need to be online. “Text messages have a 94 percent read rate and 25-40 percent of received texts are always forwarded thus advertisers are guaranteed a wide market,” he added in the statement.
Some observers have voiced doubts about the new service’s chances for success. As a writer for TechZim explained, the service faces competition from existing internet chat services available through Facebook, Google and others.
Tawanda Karombo is a freelance journalist living in Zimbabwe. He has had experience with Financial, Business and Communication Reporting. He has previously written for The Financial Gazette (Business and Financial Weekly in Zimbabwe), MoneyWeb (South African Investment and Financial web publication) and The Zimbabwe Gazette (Online news publication about Zimbabwe) among others.