When beMOBILE entered the mobile phone market after the issuance of service neutral licensing in 2008, punters condemned it to failure, but less than a year later it has taken a sizeable chunk of the market.
beMOBILE, a subsidiary of BTC Group, a government owned telecommunications company, has already been felt in the households and corporate Botswana with a number of executives signing contracts with the Botswana-brewed company.
The General Manager of BTC mobile division, Anthony Masunga, told The Telegraph the growth is attributable to a wide range of factors, including leadership that the group recently attracted.
“I believe with strong people you can grow,” stated Masunga, adding that the fact that the mobile outfit is relevant to Batswana has made it attractive to consumers.
“We partnered with Batswana through soccer and we are creating a platform for a home grown brand like Coca Cola and Mercedes Benz (where they originate),” he said.
The BTC’s mobile phone division had a commercial launch in May 2008 while commercial activity started in September/ October 2008.
The mobile unit growth defies conservative estimates by Intelecom, a research and consultancy firm that projected that the mobile market will slow to 12-15% over the 2007-2010 period.
beMOBILE visibility started mainly after the partnership with the Premier League for a three year P15 million sponsorship that also helped the company register steady numbers.
The BTC mobile division has managed to grow from 30, 000 to 100, 000 subscribers in May 2009. The outfit is expected to announce that it has 200, 000 subscribers in October, which is a ‘tremendous growth by mobile standards’, said Masunga.
beMOBILE is being classified in the same league as Cell C, a South African mobile phone company that struggled to penetrate the market although it had operated for more than 10 years.
Masunga revealed that they leveraged on the fact that beMOBILE is part of BTC group, which has a bigger infrastructure that Orange and Mascom are also using.
He revealed that, initially, they had a conservative target of 75, 000 subscribers, but they have since exceeded 100, 000.
“We are thinking of doing 250, 000 and forecasting a triple growth in the coming year,” he revealed.
The company currently registers between 18, 000 -20, 000 subscribers a month compared to one competitor that added 22, 000 subscribers in six months.
Masunga claims beMOBILE pricing is better than competition and it is attractive because of ‘be free’, a product that gives customers free calls during the weekend after putting an airtime of P20.
beMOBILE’s challenge is that competitors, especially Mascom, are international brands and part of global networks, which gives them an opportunity to tap into world class technology.
The other companies can also negotiate group discounts, but Masunga assured the market that they can mitigate these challenges.
“We will use the knowledge of the local market,” stated Masunga, adding that under their soccer sponsorship, they have made teams dealers by asking them to sell products.
The GM has also advised subscribers to comply with the law that calls for prepaid users to register sim cards with the Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA).
The deadline for registration is December 31 2009 and those who do not register will be cut off by the three mobile phone companies.
Masunga explained that the belief is that with the registration, it will help in issues of crime because it is hoped that it will help shorten the investigations cycle by law enforcement bodies since there will be a clear data base of mobile phone users.
Recently, BTA officials revealed that only 267,113 pre-paid cell phone subscribers had registered with them.
This represents 13 percent of over 2.2 million cell phone owners in the country although only three months are left before the curtain falls.
Masunga added he was hopeful that beMOBILE would make an impact on the balance sheet of BTC group in the next reporting year.
“beMOBILE will have a strong contribution to the results. I see a 100-200 percent growth,” he revealed.