Telecoms Rates, Offers and Coverage (briefs)

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

- In Kenya, the ongoing battle for control of mobile telephony market has moved across the borders as the operators cut international tariffs in the race to attract and retain subscribers. Zain Kenya threw the first salvo by reducing its international tariffs by 70 per cent to three shillings per minute. Essar Yu followed suit with a 98 per cent drop to Sh2.50 a minute. These rates apply to calls to the US, China, Canada and India - which accounts for the largest international traffic. Orange and Safaricom have also signalled their intentions to make similar cuts.

- Determined to ensure that more Nigerians enjoy Blackberry services, national telecommunications operator Glo, has reduced the retail prices of top-rated Blackberry devices in its shops nationwide. Details of the reduction shows that the Blackberry Gemini, which used to cost N54, 000 in Glo's retail shops, Gloworld, will now go for N49,000, giving a saving of N5,000. The Blackberry Bold, which used to sell at N100, 000 in Gloworld, now costs N95, 000, also a saving of N5, 000. The biggest saving is for those who decide to go for the trendy Bold 2, which sells for N85,000 from the original N100,000, giving the subscriber a saving of N15,000.

- There is a new hope for the 17-plus million Tanzanians with mobile handsets to benefit from the deeply reduced inter- and intra networks connection rates. Two cellphone service providers, Zain and Vodacom had last week announced to cut down by half from Tshs 6 (US cents 0.003) Tshs 3 (UScents 0.001) per second for calling other networks. The newly introduced rates are not subject to any terms or conditions.
Already the country's cellphone giants; Zain, Vodacom, TIGO and Zantel, have cut their intra-network calling rates to Tshs 1 per second while other phone providers compete to charge even less for same network calls.

- TradeArabia News Service reports that Etisalat Nigeria has announced that it has signed up its five millionth subscriber, a remarkable achievement given it has been in operation less than two years. ‘We are very proud of Etisalat Nigeria, as it has made a significant achievement netting five million subscribers in less than two years of commercial operations in a highly competitive telecom market like Nigeria,’ said Ahmed bin Ali, Etisalat Group senior vice president.

- South African wireless operator Cell C has confirmed that it has launched its 900MHz HSPA+ network in a third city – East London; the network has already been launched in Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein. The first phase of the rollout in East London will see 81% of the city’s population covered by the network. A second phase, which will ensure 100% coverage for the city and surrounding areas, should be completed by the end of this year. Subscribers in East London can expect data speeds of between 4Mbps and 7Mbps, although Cell C has claimed that customers elsewhere will be able to achieve speeds of 10Mbps.

- Zain Kenya will commence its re-branding exercise on 15 October, taking up the identity of its new owner, Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel. Zain has said that unlike previous re-branding exercises, when its predecessors entered the market using expensive above-the-line (ATL) strategies, Bharti Airtel will adopt corporate social responsibility (CSR) as its entry strategy, prioritising community empowerment as a key part of its branding drive. Zain has reportedly enlisted the assistance of vendors and street traders in rural markets to increase brand awareness.

- Sierra Leone’s largest mobile network operator by customers, Africell SL, has announced that it has crossed the one million active subscriber mark. The GSM operator, registered as Lintel SL, is a subsidiary of African holding company Africell, itself owned by Lebanon-based telco Lintel Holding, and launched 900MHz services in February 2005, before passing half a million users in early 2008, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database. In November 2009 Africell acquired rival GSM operator Tigo Sierra Leone from Millicom International Cellular. A merger of the two operations has not yet been officially confirmed, although the local Tigo website has been taken offline. Excluding its new acquisition, by mid-2010 Africell had a market share of around 38% of mobile customers in the country, whilst the former Tigo accounted for around 7%.

- Bharti Airtel's recently purchased mobile operator Zain in Malawi has launched commercial 3G services. The Nyasa Times reports that the cellco is offering users of its UMTS network free video calling and free access to websites including Facebook, Twitter and BBC for a promotional 30-day period, whilst it is also running an Apple iPad promotion.