Telecom operator, MTN Rwandacell will soon be the latest affiliate in the regional free-roaming zone bonanza. If concluded, the deal will allow nationals in Rwanda and the rest of the region to make and receive calls without roaming charges.

The MTN Rwandacell chief executive, Themba Khumalo and his Safaricom counterpart,Michael Joseph, met at the sidelines of the annual GSM conference in Nairobi last week and discussed the prospects.

"I have already had discussions with the MTN Rwanda CEO and we'll continue to talk to see what we can do," the Safaricom chief told Business Week in a brief interview. Safaricom is Kenya's largest mobile operator.

For over the last four months, mobile subscribers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have been making roam-free calls, thanks to a tri-network tie-up arrangement by MTN Uganda, Safaricom (Kenya) and Tanzania's Vodacom.

Said Khumalo; "I see no reason why we should not implement the service but we are going to see what has hindered the process before. We have a lot to gain." Earlier, Celtel International, which operates networks in all the three countries, pioneered the free-roaming trend with a one-network campaign. Under the arrangement, the over 15 million combined subscribers of all the four networks can now make calls when across the borders at local rates and receive free incoming calls.

East African Business Week