Following Celtel’s lead, MTN and Vodacom will launch “me-too” borderless services in the region this month. This follows the conclusion of talks that will help each of the telecom operators facilitate regional expansion. MTN had already signalled it would do this at GSM Africa in November last year.

Erik van Veen, MTN Uganda Chief Commercial Officer, said over the weekend that the single network will be launched before the end of January. He was, however, hesitant to give details on how the system would work.

"We will give you details when we are closer to launching," asserted van Veen. "Last year, we mentioned that we shall launch this service in 2007. I can tell you now that preparations are in advanced stages and we shall be launching it before the end of this month," he added.

The three companies have been in talks since mid-last year on how they could create synergies to provide a single network.

Vodacom Tanzania has a subscriber base of more than five million, MTN has 1.7m subscribers while Safaricom has about 4.7m subscribers. "We are all market leaders in our respective countries. Combined, (the big tree operators) have a subscriber base of more than 10m and this is going to be the biggest service in the region," said van Veen. Analysts estimate that since the launch of Celtel's One Network, the company has gained more that 10% more regional roaming subscribers.

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