Last year, Dobox partnered with MTN to deliver these movies free of data charge. This meant that MTN subscribers who used the Dobox app did not have to pay data charges. Only the rental fee was deducted from their airtime balance.

Dobox, like iROKOtv and Africa Magic Go is a video-on-demand (VoD) service for renting local movies on mobile devices.

At the time the partnership became public, the reigning impression was that MTN acquired Dobox. We owe that notion to MTN’s massive ad campaigns and what looked like a rebranding of Dobox to “MTN Dobox”.

It turns out MTN’s relationship with Dobox was more likely a licencing deal, and that the one year old startup is amenable to similar deals with other telcos like Etisalat to layer their OTT platform on their networks.

During the course of Mobile West Africa in May, Etisalat executives mentioned that strategic partnerships with companies like Do Media, makers of Dobox were in the works.

TC got in touch with Dobox to ask if such conversations were had. A spokesperson confirmed that there have indeed been talks, and on further inquiry conceded that it is possible that similar offerings could become available on other networks in due course. They however refused to provide further details or a specific date for when an Etisalat/DoBox partnership could culminate.

Etisalat representatives declined to comment.

On the whole, this could be great news for the general consumer. We are beginning to see a trend in Nigerian telcos dabbling into zero-rated OTT content plays. Just recently, Airtel launched its N5 Entertainment store that allows subscribers download 5-minute videos for N5 each, at no extra download charge.

The West continues to debate on Net Neutrality and how the lack of it can ruin the internet. But Nigeria is a country where cost of internet is still a major concern for consumers. Zero-rated online services are potentially instrumental to high internet adoption rates. Some might argue that if telcos continue to collaborate with online content startups to provide zero-rated content, it might cripple the competition. I can’t say that’s necessarily true, considering all the telcos are involved.

And let’s be honest — any Nigerian content startup that is serious about growing its user-base knows well enough to  push for such partnerships. Of course we might what to consider how this will affect us in the long run. But you have to remember that Nigeria presents peculiar case of internet growth. We leapfrogged the fixed-line internet age into internet-enabled phones. Only now are we beginning to push for broadband infrastructure. But that didn’t stop us from jump-starting our internet revolution. Nigeria, Africa as a whole, is evolving too fast to be concerned about long term internet plays at the moment.

We’re following the possible launch of Etisalat Dobox with interest. Report any telltale foliage changes from yellow to green here.

Muyiwa Matuluko Author

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