TELECOMS, RATES, OFFERS AND COVERAGE

Telecoms

- The Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation (ETC) is currently undertaking an expansion of its mobile network Ethiomobile, aimed at increasing capacity to accommodate around 2.4 million subscribers. The project is being carried out in three phases, with the first round having just begun. The telco has contracted Nokia to provide equipment for the expansion. During phase one Nokia will install new lines for 350,000 users; Ethiomobile hopes to have signed up around 150,000 new customers in Addis Ababa by the end of 2005. 250,000 new mobile lines will be rolled out during phase two, and an additional five million new lines will be added in the third round of the project. At the end of September 2005 there were around 650,000 mobile users in Ethiopia.

- Tunisia based GSM operator, Tunisiana has launched it's `Please Call Me' interactive USSD service for pre-paid users. This service enables pre-paid customers lacking credit to send a free SMS message requesting to be called by the recipient, opening previously inaccessible revenue sources for network operators. Named `Otlobni,' which means `Call me' in Arabic, the service has been widely publicized and well received among Tunisiana customers with a reported 200,000 users employing the service within the first week of functionality. In the second week that number doubled to almost 400,000 users.

- Telecel Zimbabwe has embarked on a network expansion which will see the company putting up base stations in rural areas. Telecel's current capacity has virtually reached saturation levels with its subscriber base currently standing at 139 000 out of a capacity of 140 000.

- New Sierra Leonean mobile company Datatel has plans to connect 150 telecenters and build booths all over the country.

- Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) chairman Paris Mashile last week said Icasa was far from finished with its efforts to identify and eliminate any over-pricing practices by Vodacom, MTN and Cell C. Icasa will soon hold hearings into the cost of cellphone calls, and it has already staged hearings to assess whether handset subsidies are artificially inflating the cost of cellular contracts.