Econet Wireless this week launched a new group chat service called Top-Chataz. Top Chataz is an SMS based group messaging service. It allows you to stay in touch with your friends and follow their activities and news. The largest Mobile Network operator in Zimbabwe also brought back zero data Facebook. The service they once launched a few years back but was largely unsuccessful. The Facebook service allows non-smartphone users to access Facebook via SMS.
Here is how the two services work
1. Top Chataz
The Top Chataz service has 3 categories, GC1 valid for 1 day, GC7 for 7 days and GC30 valid for 30 days. Below are the steps to follow for using the service;
- Send GC1/GC7/GC30 to 30300
- Create group: send CREATE:GROUPNAME to 30300
- Add members: send INVITE:GROUPNAME:PHONENUMBER1,PHONENUMBER2,PHONENUMBER3 to 30300
Below are the Top Chataz tarrifs for the 3 categories:
2. Zero data Facebook
The zero data Facebook service also has 3 categories. Daily for $0.10, weekly for $0.50, and monthly for $1.50. To subscribe to the service, dial *325#. The service basically allows a subscriber’s Facebook updates to be converted to SMS and vice-versa. This service was once introduced in 2011 but did not do too well.
The Top Chataz and Facebook offerings are meant to promote a dying SMS service. SMSs have suffered a blow in the last few years with the advent of smartphones and instant messaging apps like Messenger and WhatsApp. Should the service be successful it would obviously give Econet a much needed revenue boost.
Innovation or desperation?
Social Media has evolved way past just chatting. People want photos and videos. Smartphones are now relatively cheap and the internet penetration rate reasonably high. There just is no room for these two services. At least not for the greater part of the ‘chatty’ community. It also doesn’t help that Econet have rolled out a service yet have not provided enough information about it. The service ‘could’ work for rural folk, but for lack of info probably will not. Urban folk will probably just continue using WhatsApp and the normal ‘exciting’ Facebook with pics, vids, GIFs and links.
The return of the Facebook via SMS offer is also quite surprising. The service did not seem to have had any meaningful impact back then. It will be interesting to see how it is received now. Is Econet running out of ideas? Time will tell.