TELECOMS, RATES, OFFERS AND COVERAGE

Telecoms

- Vmobile Nigeria has fulfilled its promise to launch commercial GSM service within 45 days in the towns that won the first phase of its on-going SMS (Short Message Service) Competition. The company's base stations came live in five communities Okemisi (Ekiti State), Gombi (Adamawa State), Assop (Plateau State), Biu (Borno State) and Obangede (Kogi State) in the early hours of Tuesday, November 15, 2005.

According to Vmobile's Acting Head of Division, Emeka Oparah, this is a very exciting development given that Nigerians, who are desirous of Vmobile's service in their towns and communities, participated actively in the voting.

"Our initial commitment", Oparah explained, "was to bring three winning towns onto our network within 45 days of announcing the winners in the first quarter, which lasted between July September". "The company, however, decided to extend the benefit to two more communities that finished top in the competition, bringing the total number to five", as a demonstration of its commitment to bringing its services closer to the people", he added.

In Quarter 1 of the Vmobile SMS Competition, Okemisi came top, followed by Gombi, Biu, Obangede and Assop. Other towns that finished within the top 10 include Potiskum (Yobe State), Donga (Taraba State), Amagu Akagbe (Enugu State), Uba (Borno State), and Gashua (Yobe State). The SMS Competition is part of Vmobile coverage programme tagged Project ROSE (Rolling Out Service Everywhere).

The company plans to invest USD 2,000 billion over the next 24 months in achieving nationwide network coverage and excellent quality of Service. During the period, over 3, 000 base stations will be deployed across Nigeria and a transmission backbone constructed across Nigeria. A number of communities have been covered outside the SMS Competition, as part of the Project ROSE. During Quarter 1, over 50 towns were covered. More than 70 new towns are expected to be covered during Quarter 2, ending 31 December 2005.

- MTN Group has reported a 31% rise in subscribers in its fiscal first half of the year, to 20.6 million, helping generate a 25% increase in consolidated revenues to ZAR17.2 billion for the six months ended 30 September 2005. In its home market, MTN’s subscriber base rose 12% to 8.96 million. In Nigeria, MTN’s subscriber base leapt 38% to 7.67 million, although a higher proportion of lower-value customers resulted in ARPU dipping to around USD23 from USD40 six months earlier. Elsewhere, MTN’s Swaziland operation ended the period with 192,000 subscribers, up 23%, and its Cameroon subscriber base rose from 863,000 to 1.129 million. Ugandan subscribers increased by 14% to 895,000 and its Rwandan operation added around 68,000 users to end the period with 256,000. Cash-rich MTN has completed the purchase of a string of operators in Zambia (91,000 subs), Ivory Coast (932,000) and Botswana (445,000) in the period and says it will continue to pursue growth in Africa and the Middle East, where it is finalising the purchase of a 49% stake in Iran’s second national mobile operator.