Smile Telecom Targets Low Income Earners in Uganda


The launch of Smile Telecom, the seventh mobile telephone operator, has brought a new dimension to the telecom industry in Uganda. Smile is basing its business model on tapping into the average Ugandan who may not afford a mobile telephone handset or standard phone but may have some money to pay for a phone call.

Industry watchers say if the model is followed to the letter, Smile Telecom will help to hook many poor people onto phone services. To use Smile services one does not need a mobile phone handset. Subscribers will be given PIN codes.

"We shall have a truly transparent pricing. You shall only pay for what you have used. We shall charge sh5 per second across all networks," said Irene Charnley, the Smile Telecom Chief Executive Officer.

Smile has invested over $30m into this market so far. According to Charnley, the firm has its own equipment, but is sharing masts and other infrastructure with WARID Telecom.

Smile agents operating pay phones will be the link with customers in their communities. Clients with PIN codes can log into any of these phones and make calls. The Smile service was pioneered in KwaZulu Natal province, a very densely populated area in South Africa.

Uganda is the first country to launch commercial services after the company got its first licence here. Smile is also seeking operating licences in Tanzania, South Africa, DR Congo and Nigeria.

New Vision