Bianca Mlilo, Business Reporter
THE Government owned telecommunications unit, NetOne says it has poured $2 million to acquire the necessary infrastructure for the relaunch of OneWallet mobile money platform.
OneWallet is the parastatal’s mobile money platform. Its first launch was in 2011 and the second in 2013. A report last year had shown that NetOne made an advance payment of about $600 000 for OneWallet yet the company only recouped about $1 000 per month from the business venture.
NetOne acting chief executive officer Mr Brian Mutandiro said this investment therefore, was a way of getting hold of a larger part of the market for the telecoms firm.
“The OneWallet relaunch has cost us more than $2 million, which includes equipment and its customisation, as well as rolling it out. The full relaunch will be held at the end of April this year. For now we are preparing and customising the equipment.
To say we’re targeting 10 million subscribers would be presumptive because EcoCash, a subsidiary of Zimbabwe’s leading telecoms firm holds 98 percent market share in mobile money.”
OneWallet’s new technology partner is the one responsible for the success of Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile money platform under Safaricom, that country’s leading mobile network operator.
M-Pesa has more than 20 million subscribers, a figure far higher than Zimbabwe’s population which stood at 14,2 million, according to the 2013 population census results.
Owing to a lower market share in subscribers and the firm’s late venture into mobile money, the OneWallet platform struggled to fulfill its mandate.
Mr Mutandiro said they intended to take some of that market share, and this would not happen overnight but would be a progressive process. The additional infrastructure is expected to give NetOne the capacity to connect 10 million subscribers at a time. NetOne has 4.3 million active subscribers and it is planning to sign up five million more subscribers.
Turning to base stations, Mr Mutandiro said NetOne installed close to 1 000 base stations last year. He said they were awaiting the commencement of a bigger project of 3 000 base stations, whose funding was expected to be in place in the next 12 months.
He could not be drawn to reveal more details concerning the project. “It would be premature,” he added, to give more details on the project.
In Zimbabwe, mobile money services have emerged as an important hedge against the decline in revenue by telecoms companies.
Voice communications, the star revenue driver for mobile network operators has over the years registered a sharp decline due to the proliferation of over the top services like Viber, WhatsApp and Skype. Mobile money has since become a major contributor to the telecoms’ bottom lines. This good run experienced in mobile money services has been extended by the illiquid environment which has made cash alternatives like mobile money a viable solution for people in a cashless society.