Three of the leading operators in Tanzania have hailed an agreement that will let subscribers send and receive mobile money with the users of rival services for the first time.
Tigo, Airtel and Zantel – three of the country’s four largest operators – have reached agreement with a service scheduled to start at the end of June.
Whereas interoperability is standard with basic services such as voice and SMS, it is rarer with mobile money. In fact, this is the first deal among African operators. Its supporters hope interoperability will increase traffic between users.
The participants define interoperability as being where users can send and receive money across the mobile network and the funds go directly to a user’s account.
However, the current agreement does not include market leader Vodacom, which is a real force in Tanzania’s mobile money market with its M-Pesa service.
Diego Gutierrez, general manager for Millicom’s Tigo in Tanzania, would not comment if the three had deliberately excluded Vodacom, according to the Financial Times.
“There has been a commitment at group level including Vodafone to pursue interoperability,” he said. “The conversations with Airtel and Zantel have moved quite fast but I think that eventually everyone is going to be integrated.”
As well as customers being able to send funds directly to one another’s handsets, other benefits include the ability to send money more affordably and simply without the need for PIN codes when making withdrawals, operators claim.
“Just as we co-operate with our competitors on voice calls and text to help our customers, so we hope to be able to do the same with mobile money and help make Tanzania a global pioneer in digital financial inclusion,” said Tigo’s Gutierrez.
One year ago, three leading operators in Indonesia – Indosat, Telkomsel and XL Axiata – similarly struck an important agreement on interoperability that enabled their subscribers to exchange mobile money with one another.