TELECOMS, RATES, OFFERS AND COVERAGE

Telecoms Rates, Offers and Coverage (briefs)

- MTN Ghana says it is investing in advanced switching technology, dubbed ‘The Blade Cluster’, as part of efforts to improve network quality across the country. A spokesman for the cellco, Bright Girentsi-Annku, told reporters that the new switching technology will result in higher capacity and enable MTN Ghana to process calls at a significantly higher speed. The MTN official went on to say that the firm is also in the process of deploying two additional switch centres in the capital to give it ‘the most advanced and world class switching facilities in the country’. Elsewhere, MTN Ghana is rolling out a new internet protocol (IP) network based on multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), to increase transmission speed and capacity, and has also laid 1,800km of fibre-optic cabling, with an additional 500km due to be deployed soon. Girentsi-Annku claims that MTN Ghana currently enjoys a 55% share of the mobile market, carrying 60% of Ghana’s local and international call traffic.

- Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe's largest telecommunications company, has slashed the cost of outgoing international calls by as much as 50 percent. Chief Executive, Douglas Mboweni said Zimbabweans could now call destinations such as the UK and South Africa for as little as US24c per minute (US0.004c per second). The latest development will see calls to South Africa becoming cheaper than what is charged by South African operators for calls to Zimbabwe.

- Vodafone Ghana has launched the Blackberry smartphone. Marc Norris, Director of Consumer Fixed Vodafone Ghana said that "For as little as GHC 75.00 per month, post-paid customers will receive free BlackBerry smartphones, enjoy 400 minutes of calls to all networks in Ghana, the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom (fixed only), as well as three gigabytes of data, 200 free SMS and free calls among their user group.

- The latest offering from the United States-based technology giant Apple Incorporated, the revolutionary tablet computer, the iPad, is set to grace the Namibian market five months after the device was first sold in the US, thanks to mobile giant Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTC).

- Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) has launched 'Mobile Banking' services. The service dubbed 'BPR Mobile Banking' will help customers to conduct banking transactions via their mobile phone handsets, once they have subscribed to the latest technology. BPR CEO, Ben Kalkman, said at the launch that the bank is targeting 300,000 users in the next two years. "We already have 50,000 people who have signed up and our target is for every user to carry out between three to five transactions per month which is a good start," Kalkman said.

- An Econet spokesperson announced that the South African mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) owned by the Econet Wireless Group (EWG) has sold more than 500,000 SIM cards in the last twelve months to Zimbabweans living in South Africa, piggybacking on Cell C's network under the 'Call Home' banner. The spokesperson predicted that Econet Wireless South Africa’s SIM card sales would exceed one million ‘within a few months’. EWG recently set up a similar MVNO service in the UK targetting people calling African countries.

- Vizada has partnered with Indigo Telecom to make the widely anticipated IsatPhone from Inmarsat available to customers based in Kenya and operating in other parts of East Africa; notably Sudan, Somalia, and other parts of southern Africa not covered by other satellite services.

- In support of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled from conflict and disaster areas, Ericsson and Refugees United, in partnership with the UNHCR and mobile operator MTN in Uganda, have launched a project to locate and reconnect refugee and IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) families through the use of mobile phones and internet. The program enables refugees to use mobile phones to register and search for loved ones via an anonymous database, and subsequently reconnect using SMS or email. The information registered may be accessed by refugees and NGOs caring for displaced people, and used to quickly put them in touch with their families.

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