Here’s How Equity Bank’s Mobile Venture Will Work
Equity Bank will launch MVNO services next month, July. They announced it as Equity 3.0 and hailed it as The Next Big Thing. Equity was granted a licence in April alongside two other companies, Tangaza Pesa and ZionCell.
Equity will offer the services through its subsidiary, FinnServe Africa. However, for the purposes of clarity, and because of familiarity, I will refer to the new venture as Equity Mobile or Equity in this article.
What is an MVNO?
A mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is a wireless communications services provider that does not own the wireless network infrastructure over which it provides services to its customers. An MVNO enters into a business agreement with amobile network operator to obtain bulk access to network services at wholesale rates, then sets retail prices independently. An MNO owns the infrastructure, unlike the MVNO. An MVNO may use its own customer service, billing support systems, marketing and sales personnel or it may employ the services of amobile virtual network enabler (MVNE). An MVNO, therefore, is an MNO reseller, a customer of an MNO rather than a competitor.
In this venture, equity is the MVNO and Airtel the MNO. It will use 60 % of Airtel’s infrastructural capacity to deliver its services. Airtel has also promised to expand its infrastructure to meet Equity’s demands.
Paper Thin Equity SIM cards
Equity will introduce paper thin SIM cards that the customers will use to access its services. It plans to issue free SIM cards to its 8.7 million customers . You do not need to have another phone or a phone with dual SIM card capabilities to use the Equity SIM card. You do not have to migrate into Equity’s network to use its mobile banking services. This SIM-card will work alongside your current sim card, regardless of your mobile phone service provider.
The bank’s sim card will consist of of 0.1 millimeter thick film. It can be put (layered) on the active side of the customer’s original SIM card,whether Safaricom, Airtel, Yu or Orange, without affecting your original service providers’ network reception. That is, you can make calls, send texts, send money through other platforms even with the thin Equity SIM card layered to the active side of your initial SIM card.
The SIM skin gets married to the existing card and turns your phone into a dual SIM although it has only one slot. If somebody calls you on your Equity line, you can pick it and if they call your other network, you can do the same.
Equity MVNO will mirror all its banking services into the mobile phone. By linking the account to the mobile phone, customers can apply for loans, move money into and from their bank accounts and pay bills. In addition, you will be able to carry out cross border transactions from your mobile phones. You will receive international remittances onto your accounts and access through your mobile phone numbers, Equity Agents, ATMs or branches.
The money transactions through mobile will involve your equity account. If you deposit money, or send, it will go into an actual equity account. Same case applies when you withdraw, it will come from the actual equity account as opposed to a virtual one. This is to ensure that funds never sit in a virtual account like is the case with M-pesa, instead they sit in each client’s respective bank account.
However, you can send money into any account whether actual or virtual with Equity money. Note that you will need an equity account to be able to use this service. Despair note, you can easily open an Equity Bank account instantly on your phone through the Hapo Hapo service . (Dial *247#, enter your national ID number and you will receive your account number and Pin instantly.)
Mobile transfers will be charged at 1% of the transaction value compared to the prevailing market charges of 16%. The charges will be capped at Ksh 25 per transaction. Additionally, instant loans will be at a maximum of 2% per month compared to the 7.5% per month offered in the market.
Every SIM card will be a debit card
Customers will be able to pay for their goods by tapping their phones at a mobile point of sale terminal. This will work in the same manner as BEBA pay, for all those who have used it to pay matatu fare in Nairobi.
Will Equity’s move include voice calls?
As explained above, the bank is going through the whole gamut. The platform will offer voice and data services on top of the money transfer services. That means, you can call, you can text and browse the internet on Equity’s network just as do with Safaricom or Airtel.
Reports indicate that firm will charge at least Kshs. 0.1 above Airtel’s current rates.
The Kenyan market has generally proven challenging for any new entrant. Essar Telecoms, which operates Yu Mobile has been trying to sell its Kenyan stake after failing to make any significant headway. Airtel, which has witnessed several re-brands and ownership changes has been struggling to gain a meaningful market share ever since Safaricom took the lead. Safaricom controls around 75% of the mobile market in Kenya.
However, Equity’s announcement generated a level of excitement from Kenyans. The bank plans to give its 8.7 million customers, spread out in the region free SIM cards. It expects at least three million of its mobile banking customers to move to its new network. Kenya has 20 million mobile subscribers.
Industry sources indicate that Equity’s decision to introduce new SIM card technology, customers will get excited in trying it out. Moreover, Kenyans’ are swayed if a new entrant brings in indomitable competition and provides value for their money, something Equity 3.0 promises in abundance.
Analysts say that this venture could reshape the future of payment systems in the region by combining financial services and technology more closely than was previously thought possible.
Equity’s primary focus on using the MVNO to grow its share of the payments market could present a challenge to Safaricom’s dominance.
Equity Bank does more transactions through agency banking than it does through its branches. Using agencies helps the bank cut costs, and increases customer satisfaction. The lender says it will distribute 300,000 smart phones to merchants, allowing them to process payments from its MVNO and cardholders.
However, Safaricom still poses a major challenge to Equity. Safaricom has a head start in the payments sector with its Lipa na M-pesa service. The service allows customers to pay for goods and services using M-Pesa. The telco has recruited business 120, 000 outlets to this service. In addition, Safaricom has more than 90,000 M-pesa agents across the country while Equity has only 11,000.
Nevertheless, the Equity numbers are not bad for a start. Moreover, they have the fees pegged at a lower range, allows customers to use their service at no extra cost and already have the reputation of being after the interests of the common mwananchi going for them.