Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is Apple treading a similar path to Ghana Telecom?

A Vodafon Ghana commercial on TV triggered a comparison in my mind between the now defunct Ghana Telecom (the predecessor of Vodafon Ghana) and MTN. Back in the early part of this decade, Ghana Telecom had a chance to dominate the mobile phone market here. 

At the time, the competition was between Spacefon, which was later rebranded Areeba and again rebranded MTN and Ghana Telecom. There were other two but very insignificant. Using MTN was like using AT&T in the US, at least in some parts of the country.

When Ghana Telecom introduced their Onetouch Mobile service, it had a clear chance of becoming the market leader. Why? Because it was better in terms of call quality. People desperately wanted to ditch MTN but did not like the alternatives available. Onetouch was the only option except for one fact; the SIM cards were sold at a premium price!

They were prohibitively expensive, only being purchased by the affluent and corporate executives. MTN was not the best since sliced bread, but their SIM cards were selling. Fast. And their userbase was mostly the youth. 

While the nation's telecom operator focused on selling its SIM cards to the very wealthy in society when it was clear there was a massive demand for them from all demographics, MTN focused on making their SIM cards readily available and reasonably priced. Anybody could buy an MTN chip, but only the very wealthy could lay hands on Onetouch.

Fast forward to ending of June 2010, and MTN has more than 50% of Ghana's over 16 million mobile phone users, followed by Tigo with less than 4.5 million AND then Vodafon (formerly Onetouch) with about 3 million or so. Substitute Onetouch/Vodafon with the iPhone and MTN with Android and you have a similar scenario unfolding in the fiercely competitive smartphone market in the US!

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By Seraaj Muneer with 3 comments

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