Over The Top (OTT) services are increasingly becoming the new battlefront for Zimbabwe's telecommunications companies as the country starts issuing broadcasting licences for webcasting, Voice on Demand and content distribution at a time when startups in digital media are recording rising viewership numbers. These developments are expected to take competition directly to the traditional television and pay television industry dominated by Multichoice Zimbabwe.

Already, Econet has now been licenced in Zimbabwe to offer its Kwese TV pay television channel. However, other Internet content developers and distributors have stepped up into the fray and have been plugging a gap in the Zimbabwean current news and video content market.

Zimbabwe only has one state run television channel and only a handful of radio stations, most of them state owned or aligned, in their messaging,to the state.

Internet based news platforms beaming live current affairs programs on Facebook Line, YouTube and other platforms have emerged as strong alternatives in Zimbabwe and these include ZimDiTV, 263Chat and Technomag TV among others. Other platforms riding on social media sites such as Twitter, where they offer updates about parliamentary debates and other events include OpenParly, BustopTv and others. Lucky Aaaron, co-founder of BustopTv told iAfrikan by phone on Friday that the platform was reaching over 100,000 viewers for each video clip on YouTube and Facebook per month. The platform has a combined monthly viewership of up to 500,000, he added.

Affordable Internet access

However, for the startup and medium online content creators digital media companies in Zimbabwe, the big challenge is Internet access for their audience.

“Internet [access] is still a challenge for our audience but we are doing well with what we have in the country in terms of internet. If internet was cheap for our audience, we would reach more people,” he said.

However, the telecommunications operators in Zimbabwe are expected to heighten competition in this area, given their diverse infrastructure capacity. This week, the Zimbabwe government licenced state owned landline operator, TelOne to provide Video on Demand services in the country.

“TelOne has been awarded a broadcasting service licence by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) in terms of Section 10 (11) of the Broadcasting Services Act,” said TelOne, which also offers internet services, on Friday.

The Internet is playing an increasingly bigger role in the daily lives of Zimbabweans and this has boosted the country's Internet penetration rate to around 50%, with mobile devices accounting for a greater share of this. Zimbabwean experts in social media said this week that most corporates are also venturing into mobile application development to tap into markets where people are increasingly online.

“Companies are boosting their online presence and more and more are also having their own applications. Social media is becoming more and more integrated into models and strategies for Zimbabwean companies,” said Godknows Homwe, a social media strategist.

This comes as tourism and hospitality group, RTG is further developing its Gateway application to integrate private properties whose owners are willing to lease them to travellers and tourists, much the same way as Airbnb. Zimbabwean politicians have also been tapping into mobile, switching to bots for campaigns ahead of elections expected in the next few months.

Techzim has also reported this week that Google Maps now allows for real time traffic updates in Zimbabwe.

“The service will show traffic bars for half an hour before and a few hours after the current time to help users on their journey. The App is able to tell road users which roads are busy with a show of colors that range from red (bad traffic) to green (good traffic/no congestion),” reported Techzim.