WiFi hotspots, the new battleground for Zim mobile firms

Mobile operators in Zimbabwe are aggressively pushing data and connectivity services to capture market share as traditional voice service revenues continue to dwindle.

Zimbabwe's biggest telco Econet Wireless is offering WiFi connectivity on board taxis on local routes within Harare and on the route linking the capital with Bulawayo.

The company already has about 300 WiFi hotspots around the country as it gears to up its data revenues. Subscribers on Econet get 100% bonus for data and social media bundle top-ups and the free WiFi capacity is accessible on taxis.

Econet Wireless Chief Operating Officer Fayaz King said most of the company's subscribers "use public transport on a daily basis".

Now subscribers on the Econet network do not have to "wait until they get off the Kombi (commuter taxi) to check their mails, browse their favourite sites" or to stream video content.

It is expected that the platform will be expanded to other towns and the company is targeting up to 250 routes by the end of this year.

Rival operator, Telecel Zimbabwe, which is now controlled by the government, has started to offer WiFi bundles aimed at giving subscribers "affordable internet access".

However, to access mobile WiFi connectivity, "one has to be at a hot spot location," according to the operator.

Apart from the WiFi battleground, Zimbabwean telcos also compete through discounted data tariffs offered as promotions.

State-owned NetOne, Zimbabwe's third mobile operator, is also offering a popular promotion that gives subscribers one month's access to some social media and data platforms.

Telecom executives say the traditional voice telephony cash cow for telcos is slowing down, hence the focus to enhance income from the data and mobile money categories.