Kenya’s biggest mobile operator, Safaricom, is in talks with MTN Uganda and Vodacom of Tanzania to help it launch borderless services in order to facilitate regional expansion.

This comes barely two weeks since Celtel, the only operator with a presence in the three East African countries, launched a common service for the region in what the Daily Nation described as a "coup on Safaricom" in the race for regional clients.

"We are not going to sit still and watch. We are in advanced negotiations with our partners in Uganda and Tanzania," Michael Joseph, the Safaricom chief executive officer, told the Daily Nation last week.

Last month, Celtel unveiled a seamless service called One Network, which allows subscribers in the region to make calls at local rates and receive calls free of charge while in another country in the region. Subscribers can also top up while in any of the three countries.

MTN Uganda's chief commercial officer, Eric van Veen, said the companies have been in talks for sometime, but did not say when the plans will be implemented. 'It is true. We have been talking for two months now, even before Celtel launched One Network. We have not finalised the deal, so I am not at liberty to say when it will kick off," he said.

Safaricom has about 4.7 million subscribers in Kenya, while MTN Uganda has about 1.3 million. Celtel has bigger numbers in Tanzania. Industry sources said that since the launch of One Network, Celtel has already realised about 10% growth.

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