One of South Africa’s largest church groups, Shepherd Bushiri Ministries International, which claims to have about 2m followers, is launching a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) to offer congregants voice and data services.
The for-profit MVNO, called PSB Network (PSB is short for controversial church founder Prophet Shepherd Bushiri), has already received more than 5 000 sign-ups ahead of the official launch this weekend at Gallagher Estate in Midrand, north of Johannesburg.
As part of the launch, the company is offering “limited edition” Sim cards signed by Bushiri, a Malawian national known as “Major 1” to many of his followers.
Bushiri, who has been described as one of the richest pastors in Africa — beyond the church, he has a number of business interests — founded both the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) Church and Shepherd Bushiri Ministries International.
He claimed he started the church after a visitation from God. He has more than a million followers on Facebook.
The ECG Church is headquartered in Pretoria and has branches across the African continent, according to various reports.
PSB Network will offer voice calls at 99c/minute (on per-second billing) and a range of data options, starting at R10 for 15MB (67c/MB) and going up to R250 for 2GB (12c/MB).
PSB Network was built by virtual network enablement business MVN-X on the back of Cell C’s network.
The MVNO will offer only prepaid services at first, though MVN-X CEO Steve Bailey said phase two, which will be launched in the next few months, will offer contract options as well. MVN-X will handle distribution, too. Congregants will be able to buy Sim cards at their nearest ECG church.
Bailey, who is a former head of Virgin Mobile in South Africa, said church communities represent a huge opportunity to launch MVNOs.
“The whole MVNO space is getting hot,” he said, adding that by 2020 it could represent as much as 10% of the total mobile market in South Africa.
MVN-X has launched seven MVNOs to date, all piggybacking on Cell C. They include MRP Mobile, BokSel and Me&You Mobile. Bailey said the company will launch a new MVNO in the coming months targeted at South Africa’s student community. — © 2016 NewsCentral Media