Cut-throat mobile wars continue

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The cut-throat competition between Mascom Wireless and Orange Botswana resurfaced last week with the introduction of the latest network technology, the fourth generation (4G) .

As the two mobile phone giants continue to unveil new products and promotions to win customer loyalty, the competition between the two hit fever pitch when the two operators held successive events to announce the unveiling of 4G.

Mascom held their event on a Thursday in which they announced that they will be launching the long-term evolution fourth generation (4G LTE). The company stated that it was the first operator to pilot 4G LTE in 2012.

Mascom said that having successfully trialed 4G LTE, they are now taking the next logical step, noting that their evolution is a testament to Mascom’s commitment to provide world class mobile broadband services. “4G LTE technology offers better capacity and speed to handle a rapid increase in data traffic. A 4G LTE network will give Mascom 4G LTE subscribers greater ease of transferring large volumes of data and will give Mascom the possibility to offer a variety of end user services,” the company said.


On the other hand, Orange held a similar event the following day (Friday) at which they launched the ultrafast 4G in Gaborone, stating that more places, including Palapye, Maun and Francistown, will be covered by end of this month.

Orange CEO, Patrick Benon said the launch of the 4G is a boost to the Botswana mobile industry and the country’s businesses and consumers.

“But this is just the start as our 4G network will continue to grow stronger and wider by the day. We are investing millions in our network to be the first company to offer mobile 4G in Botswana, alongside our existing 2G and 3G networks,” he said.

In the past few years, the two operators have been at the forefront of a ruthless drive for market share that is currently gripping the telecommunications sector. Their competition is usually in terms of marketing, promotions and roll out of value added services. Currently, Mascom commands a market share of around 52 percent with over 1.7 million subscribers while Orange has about 1.1 million customers representing 39 percent of market share.

The fierce battle between Orange and Mascom is impossible to ignore with continued advertisements and counter-advertisements in the local media in order to increase their subscriber base and profit margins. With the introduction of every new product or technology, two competitors  have fought for market share on various   platforms from mobile money transfers,  I-Phone and Blackberry services and airtime promotions . 

In 2011, Orange was the first to introduce mobile money service called My Money and after a few weeks Mascom followed suit and launched its MyZaka , which is more or less similar to that of its competitor. Ever since the companies introduced their mobile money transfer services, many subscribers across the networks have been using them for various reasons such as money transfer as well as buying and paying using their mobile phones.

Orange has further introduced the Orange Money Visa Debit Card which allows Orange Money subscribers to access their funds 24 hours a day by withdrawing money at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and making point-of-sale (POS) or online purchases wherever Visa is accepted.

When Mascom introduced its Khumo Points, Orange counteracted, bringing in Ditebogo Points. Both are loyalty programmes offered to both prepaid and postpaid subscribers, which reward subscribers for using the respective networks.

Orange was the first to introduce the Zero Facebook, a mobile website that allows its prepaid and postpaid customers free mobile browsing of Facebook. It is a lightweight and optimised-for-speed version of the social network that is free to access on an Orange mobile phone.

But, it was not long before Mascom played down Orange’s exclusivity on this service. Mascom also brought in its own version of Zero Facebook which it describes as a lightweight, text-only version of the standard Facebook. The two mobile networks have also been embroiled in competition over the MyTunez melodies for Mascom and Caller Tunes for Orange. These are snippets of music or sounds, accompanied by the usual ring that the callers hear while they wait for the answer. The roaming service is also at the forefront of the competition between  Orange and Mascom. With this service, Orange enables its customers to use their mobile phones outside the country where there is a GSM network and where Orange has a roaming agreement.

In the same way, Mascom’s roaming version is called Mascom OneWorld. The operator also prides itself for enabling its customers to recharge their airtime using a South African MTN recharge voucher while they roam.

To offset that, Orange launched a service called International Airtime Transfer, allowing prepaid customers to transfer airtime to prepaid accounts globally. The two companies have also invested in promotions to lure more customers in the increasingly competitive market. “All these promotions conducted by mobile phone companies are aimed at making profits, not because they really want to reward their clients as they claim,” said Makwinja Assam, a Mascom subscriber.

He noted that he has been using this network since its inception 17 years ago, adding that he chose it because it was the only mobile operator at that time. However, the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) explained that all the promotions by the telecommunication companies are being monitored closely to ensure subscribers are not cheated. “Information on mobile phone charges is available from the mobile phone companies and therefore we encourage customers to shop around before settling for a service provider of their choice,” said the authority. Another Mascom subscriber, Moshe Jameson said he was lured to Mascom by its mobile money service which he said is very efficient and convenient.

“Mascom has never disappointed me since I can now easily buy electricity online as well as transfer money in the comfort of my home” he said. Tumelo Mongwaketse, who has been using the Orange network for about 12 years, said he was attracted to Orange the very first time it opened shop in the country.  “Everyone who was using Orange at that time seemed to appreciate it, especially my friends, so I decided to try it out. Since then I have been enjoying every moment of using this network. It is the most innovative mobile company in the country,” he said.

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