TELECOMS, RATES, OFFERS AND COVERAGE (briefs)

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

-Telkom announced a 22% reduction in its peak rate for fixed-line calls to cellphones from next month at a cost to itself of about R1.3bn. This will bring peak rates from R1.25 to 89c and off-peak rates to 77c. These agreed rates will apply pending the promulgation of final regulations by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) before the end of June. The company's mobile termination rate would fall by 36c from R1.654 to R1.294 a minute, excluding VAT. Telkom customers would therefore pay a VAT-inclusive rate of R1.475 a minute for calls made to cellphones, instead of R1.886. They had saved a lot by getting the 3G spectrum from the state without an auction and having their licence fees reduced.

-MTN South Africa now covers 98% of the geographic area of the country. MTN added 540 HSPA sites to provide additional capacity for data transmissions and completed its core modernization to comply with FIFA World Cup’s expectations. The company activated 496 2G sites and 659 3G sites to cover almost 50% of the population with regards to 3G services accessibility. The operator is currently upgrading and installing packet core nodes to extend network coverage, saying that the Gauteng fire rings are progressing well and test have already been done in October for the southern ring. The national long-distance fibre network between Johannesburg and Durban has 217km trenched. Also, MTN announced it would provide enhanced network coverage for all 10 FIFA stadiums around the country and ensure that network usage by the communities in close proximity to the stadiums that host 2010 matches, are unaffected by this increased usage.

-Vodafone has launched new low-cost handsets intended to help mobile penetration in emerging markets including Kenya.The two Vodafone branded phones are expected to retail between Sh1,125 and Sh1,500 ($15 and $20) making them accessible to more people in these markets.The mobile company has footprints in the African markets including Kenya where it owns 40 per cent of Safaricom.This is the second time the phone company has ventured into unveiling low cost phones.In May 2007 Vodafone unveiled its first low cost branded handset, Vodafone 125 and 225, that were available in the Kenyan market retailing from Sh1,500.

-MTN's launches the Goal of Goals for the next 12 weeks, it shall be giving out a home every week. MTN, 2010 World Cup sponsors, secured the two-bed-roomed self-contained apartments at National Housing Corporation (NHC) estates in Namungona.Each house costs Shs78m. "All a client has to do is use airtime of at least Shs2,000 a week to enter the draw. The more one spends, the higher their chances of winning.The winners will be selected every Sunday evening (7:30pm) in a live broadcast on UBC and NTV, entertainment and refreshments will be the least of worries.The flat has plasma screens, home theatres and fridges .All the houses shall be connected to Dstv and pay subscription for six months.

- Customers who subscribe to a high-value package called “StepUP” offered by mobile operator Zain Nigeria, will receive additional benefits designed for their high-status lifestyle. These benefits include first class treatment at designated venues and other complementary services.

- The total number of mobile subscribers in Kenya is expected to grow exponentially to 21 million by the end of 2010. Vodacom recently revealed that it has exceeded 1 million 3G/HSDPA data bundle subscribers.