Zimbabwe’s largest cellco and wireless internet provider Econet Wireless today launched voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) telephony services under its Econet Broadband division, targeting businesses and home internet users, with two respective packages, ‘VoIP at Work’ and ‘VoIP at Home’. Local news site TechZim reported from the launch event in Harare this morning that the fixed VoIP service will provide phone numbers with the ‘07720’ prefix (as opposed to Econet’s ‘077’ mobile prefix) and offer call rates lower than the company’s mobile GSM voice plans, with tariffs similar to Zimbabwe’s existing IP-based call providers such as Africom, Broadacom, Telco and Gigatel. At the launch, Econet’s commercial director George Barbaressos explained the cellco’s reasoning for introducing VoIP technology – which has been considered disruptive to mobile operators’ revenues – by saying that the service will provide customers with the ‘convenience and flexibility’ that they demand. Econet has stopped short of rolling out a VoIP-over-cellular platform, however, and is instead targeting users of PSTN incumbent TelOne’s fixed voice services, chiefly looking to generate new revenue streams in the corporate and long-distance calling sectors. Econet’s VoIP licence is held via its ISP division Ecoweb, a brand name which has been largely replaced by its Econet Broadband banner under which it offers its 3G mobile and WiMAX high speed wireless services. Econet Wireless Group’s long-distance fibre network operating unit Liquid Telecom earlier this month agreed to acquire another nationwide Zimbabwean ISP, Zimbabwe Online (ZOL).
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