Telecoms Rates, Offers and Coverage briefs

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

- Airtel Uganda reduced its call rates to India and China from Shs299 per minute to Shs180 per minute for postpaid customers and Shs3 per second for prepaid customers. The Airtel move comes after Warid Telecom slashed its rates to Shs180 for calls to China, USA, UK, Malaysia and Canada, while Orange charges to Shs240 per minute to India and Shs320 to UK, China and USA among others. Cutting international call charges follows a competitive price war that engulfed the domestic industry in the last quarter of 2010, forcing telecoms to reduce local call rates to Shs3 per second, on and off-network. The battle, however, saw the industry lose revenues, with MTN seeing its domestic revenues which had initially risen to Shs67.3 billion ($29.2 million) at the onset of the price cuts plunge to Shs44 billion ($19.1 million) in October. Airtel revenues fell more than half from Shs26 billion ($11.3 million) in August to Shs12.6 billion ($5.4 million) in September before a slight recovery saw them rising back to 13.1 billion ($5.7 million) in October. Reduction in international call rates comes at a time when players are realizing that the only way to increase their sales is by growing their subscriber base.

- Just when the mobile phone price wars were cooling off, Airtel Kenya, has sprung another surprise by lowering the calling rate within its network from Sh3 to Sh1 per minute, representing a 67 per cent drop.  The tariff, which starts on Friday, will be functional between 6am to 6pm. The mobile phone operator, which triggered the tariff wars in August last year when it cut rates by 50 per cent to Sh3 across networks, says the move is in line with the strategy of its parent company, India's Bharti Airtel of getting the mass market.

- Telecel Zimbabwe, the second largest mobile phone service provider by subscriber base, says it has dedicated resources to pioneer a Blackberry messenger service to enable users to send e-mail and access internet at all times. Chief Executive Aimable Mpore said work to provide the facility was underway and success of the project depended on approval of various contracts submitted to the company's service providers.

- Huawei has partnered with Safaricom to launch the IDEOS U8150, into the local market. The phone runs on the Android 2.2 operating system and it's the first economical handset since the launch of Android platform in Kenya last year. With a bargain of Ksh6500 from its original price of Ksh14999, the locals will enjoy a new generation and universal-type Android Internet Handset. The phone that is targeted at young fashionable and trendy people, has been developed by Huawei in cooperation with Google. It also comes with a 600MB free Safaricom data and Ksh1000 worth of Safaricom airtime.

- Vodacom Tanzania has reached an agreement with Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), under which members can make their remittance through Vodafone M-Pesa. The remittances to GEPF could be channelled through a new scheme known as Voluntary Savings Retirement Scheme (VSRS). The Vodacom Head of M-Pesa sales Department, Franklin Bagalla, said on Thursday that any registered Vodacom subscriber can now contribute to the Scheme through M-Pesa.

- In Kenya, Safaricom's market share has shrunk, a clear indication that the vicious price war over mobile phone calling rates is drilling deep holes into the industry's revenues. According to its financial reports, Safaricom had a market share of 78.3 per cent in March 2010, which fell to 76.7 per cent in September. Despite remaining market leader at the end of the year, the firm’s portion of the pie of the telecoms market had shrunk to about 72 per cent.

- In Tanzania, Tigo has launched internet services based on the latest 3.5G technology, promising to offer fastest and most reliable operations for its clients in the country and beyond. The firm's Internet Commercial Manager, Titus Kafuma, said that services to be delivered were tailored to meet different needs of customers at affordable prices.

- Ubiquitous social website, Facebook has extended its mobile services with the deployment of a java based application that can be downloaded onto most non-smart phones. The Facebook for Feature Phones app works on more than 2,500 devices from Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG and other manufacturers, and it was built in cooperation with Snaptu. The news will delight a lot of African mobile phone users.