NetOne introduces Emergency Airtime. Why is it free?

Nigel Gambanga Avatar
NetOne ZW Harare Billboard

NetOne ZW Harare BillboardToday state-owned mobile network NetOne introduced its own emergency airtime credit facility that extends 50 cents to any prepaid subscriber accessing the service on the *140# shortcode.

NetOne has made its own credit facility free, meaning that unlike the Econet and Telecel emergency airtime credit purchases, a subscriber who borrows the airtime won’t have to pay any interest on this emergency top-up.

I never thought I’d find myself saying this but…shouldn’t the mobile network be making something from this service? Why should it be free anyway?

I’m not taking anything away from the service. Whoever started the trend before it was copied locally by our operators was on to something. Cell C South Africa has the service running (at a cost of course). There were startups that made something out of this so people appreciate the service.

As a subscriber I think that from a value addition perspective this does so much for rewarding loyalty. After all, it is good to know that your network is willing to bail you out, something that as Zimbabweans hard worn by a brutal economic climate we all appreciate.

However we need to consider the environment NetOne is operating here. From that perspective you wonder whether freebies especially linked to voice services are in NetOne’s best interest.

Voice revenues which have in the past 24 months refused to look as attractive as they used to have been narrowed further by lowered tariffs.

The provision of data services, which is an area that NetOne’s competitors spent the whole of 2014 figuring out, is probably where a decent chunk of telecoms money will come from. NetOne is sadly the least innovative and aggressive in that area.

Even mobile money, which is turning out to be the no-brainer value added service to hone in on in the wake of a weak and uninspired financial services sector hasn’t been fully exploited by our State network. Besides the stranglehold on prepaid electricity which is now being disrupted by bold startups, there is nothing OneWallet has been defined by lately.

Perhaps it’s all a ploy to lure subscribers back to its service from it’s real competitor Telecel, or is it the mechanics of its emergency credit facility that make it difficult to assign a service fee? Whatever the reasoning is, I doubt that a 10% service charge (just 5 cents) would have scared some of us off this NetOne service.

What are your thoughts on this new service? Do you think the other mobile networks should follow NetOne approach and make theirs free as well?



  1. fourwallsinaroom

    It is free because Net*one would rather have you call for the 50c than not call at all. Net*One runs on the basis that any given base station will cost x dollars to run per month regardless of its usage. For example, security guard, generator and connectivity via microwave or fibre are static and not per use. Therefore just like the dollar a day promo they would rather a user contribute to that base station cost as opposed to not contribute.

    1. muvengwamunondivengerei

      Comms ine mari. Simbi hadzigayane. If you phone three minutes the wear and tear is the same as one hour. Pane nyaya kutenga ma”pylons etc..” but once installed mudyandakasungwa.

      1. Ini

        Its sad that someone thinks kuti telecoms is a matter of setting up a BTS and you are done. Here are simple things I would like you to know my friend. The bases stations or mabooster pay a monthly rental to local authorities or property owners for space occupied; there are fees paid to POTRAZ for every BTS/booster installed every month and last but not least every SIM card has a fee that is paid to POTRAZ again and all this has to be paid whether the BTS or SIM has been used or not. Most base stations have a guard and they have generators to enable them to offer services in the absence of ZESA and some areas do not have electricity completely. So there is no “mudyandakasungwa.” thank you.

        1. fourwallsinaroom

          like i said static! “. For example, security guard, generator and connectivity via microwave or fibre are static and not per use. – See more at:

  2. Don

    I think a free airtime credit service should be the standard Nigel, I don’t think MNOs shoud make a profit out of every single service they provide. Fine a few MNOs in other countries may charge interest, but most of them don’t and besides their tarrifs are lower.

  3. jay

    Noble move by netone, thats the way to go all networks shldnt benefit twice from airtime sales.

  4. Candy

    I think its understandable not to charge any interest from Credit Airtime. In my opinion, its very short term credit considering that people don’t go for more than 5 days without recharging (payback). I have a feeling that the interest being charged by Econet (4c) is actually exhobitant interest given the fact that when i borrow i will recharge in the next day or 2. If you did simple maths, its 8% interest to borrow that 50c in those 2 days, assuming i recharge in the next 48 hours. Personally, what we should be talking about is increase of the credit airtime. Cell C for instance can extend over R50 (i dont know the maximum) i guess they use indivudual sim card statistics to determine what you are capable of getting. Its actually different from each subscriber. The more you recharge, the more you can get in credit airtime!

  5. ADM

    FREE FROM WHERE!?!?!? Of course they make something – hanti you are gonna make calls and send sms with that money???? After all that IS their core business – NOT MONEY LENDING!!! So that labeling of it being “free” is nonsense. You should be asking why Econet and Telecel are out to extort customers like that!

  6. DAS

    NetOne’s mission is to connect pple not to make a profit. As long as they breakeven they are gud. Makes sense but for me its stupid.

  7. anonymous

    Netone can afford to do this. I doubt they pay licence fees to the regulator. They have a 20 year $200m loan courtesy of the government. In essence they are the government.

  8. Josiah Toin Josia

    I do not see the rational of them just giving it for free,they got to charge something for wxtwnding something.What I feel they could do is to charge lower rates,these three MNOs are competing and the lower the service charge the more business one can conduct but to say they can do it for free when there are costs involved in the service will be irrational.

  9. Wellington Paradzai

    As a consumer anything “free” is golden. Whatever Netone’s reasoning i comment it! How can a consumer seriously ask to be charged???? I like the comment that stresses that when the credit is paid back Netone makes profit from the use of the credit airtime just like ordinary airtime, so in reality Netone will have created business for itself at a time the consumer will not have been able to do so. Also it costs them nothing to provide the credit sooooo it seems this should be exemplary and not vilified……

  10. Ini

    Point of correction there : it costs them something to extend that credit. There are proprietary software and third parties involved in providing such services which have to be paid at the end of the day. This is the reason why parastatals fail and the private sector thrives. We all know that quality never comes cheap. Netone doesn’t pay licences and other taxes but still fails to offer quality, let alone expand or offer more VASs. There are using tax payers’ money, our money as a parastatal. Where is NRZ today, where is ZUPCO and AirZim? Keep on praising them like that. Two years down the line it would be a minus one and Mr Monopoly will have the best of you.

    1. fourwallsinaroom

      no its actually not complex to implement. I work in telecoms. That said, basically net*one is offering you a 50c scratch card without having to print the card and distribute it period!

  11. Anonymous

    ndascratcher airtime yangu ndibatsireiwo pliz

  12. patikutuupanhuhwa

    i think its ok

  13. kaps

    netone network its too lower and. only work on calls only ..!on Internet netone damm can’t work ….??