beMOBILE eyes 30% market share through MNP

The country’s smallest and youngest wireless phone company beMOBILE, says the upcoming introduction of Mobile Number Portability (MNP) could boost its market share as high as 30%, snatching away customers from rivals, Mascom and Orange.

A wholly owned subsidiary of the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL), beMOBILE entered the mobile phone market in 2008, 10 years after Mascom and Orange.  At the last count, beMOBILE had a market share of 16%, compared to Mascom’s 53% and Orange’s 31%. Transport and Communications Minister, Dorcas Makgato told Parliament last week that her Ministry intends to implement MNP through the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) in the next financial year beginning on April 1, 2019.  MNP allows mobile phone subscribers to change network providers without changing their numbers.

BTCL managing director, Anthony Masunga expressed confidence that MNP would be a game changer for beMOBILE’s position in the market. “We believe if MNP were introduced, we would see a major shift and we have information on the ground to support that,” Masunga told BusinessWeek. “Customers are saying they have had the same number since 1998 and while beMOBILE’s offers are good, their cellphone numbers are their businesses.

“Let’s introduce MNP so we can compete on service.  Allow customers to choose.” Presenting her Ministry’s budget for 2019-2020 before legislators, Makgato said the absence of MNP had been identified as one of the barriers to competition in the local market. “Customers tend to stick to operators even when they are not happy with their services, in fear of losing their specific mobile numbers which they might have used for many years. “This will provide customers with the flexibility and freedom to switch between service operators without fear of losing their mobile numbers,” she said.

With the move, Botswana will join a handful of African countries that have introduced MNP, such as South Africa, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire.

Although its population is just above 2.2 million people, Botswana has one of the world’s highest mobile phone densities, estimated at 157% or 3.18 million mobile phone subscriptions as at March 2018 by BOCRA.

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