Equitel an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) owned by Finserve Africa Limited a subsidiary of Equity Bank has signed up over 800,000 subscribers and is targeting to sign up 100,000 million in the next 10 years. The firm has also said it will expand its service to over 15 countries across Africa where Airtel has a footprint.
Equity Group Holdings CEO Dr. James Mwangi speaking at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town as quoted by Bloomberg and the People Daily said: “We already have 800,000 accounts and I’m optimistic we’ll have five million SIM cards issued by year end. For Africa, this is a bold step to converge financial services and telecoms along with payment services through American Express and MasterCard for tap and go,”
He added that the group had spent $20 million on Equitel and was opportunistic the number of Equitel subscribers would equal its 10 million banking customers but the target is 100 million in the next ten years.
In March 2015 the firm said it had 420,000 Equitel subscribers and in April it had hit 700,000. Equity Bank MVNO is a partnership between Airtel and the Equity Group. The firm is adamant on rolling out paper-thin SIM cards that will convert each handset into a ‘dual’ SIM handset and eliminate the need to purchase a new handset. This ultimately lowers the barrier to entry for the budget constrained consumer and low-income segment while fulfilling their need for mobile and financial services.
Earlier, Airtel Africa CEO Mr. Christian De Faria said, “We strongly believe that the entry of the MVNO into the Kenyan market will stimulate and sustain overall market growth through a new range of innovative products and service propositions that will give more choice and value to consumers. Our MVNO with Equity Bank offers an ideal model of collaboration between banks and telecoms, allowing convergence of mobile and banking, with the customer in mind”.
CA last year issued three MVNO licences to Finserve, Mobile Pay Limited –owned by Tangaza Money— and Zioncell Kenya. Equity’s venture into mobile money and telephony was viewed as a potential game-changer based on its planned lower pricing and the introduction of a special SIM card that would overlay on competitor cards.