* Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom has begun a nationwide rural network expansion programme, aimed at facilitating rural development. The project is being funded by the cellco’s KES14 billion network expansion and upgrade budget for 2005. Safaricom hopes to register its network presence in over 100 rural locations across the country, and has already erected 26 new base transceiver sites (BTSs) in the west of the country at a cost of KES690 million.

* Celtel Kenya on Thursday launched new tariffs for users of its services in East Africa. Announcing what the company termed "preferred tariffs", chief executive Gerhard May said the new tariffs will cost Sh32 during peak hours. The new tariffs reduce the cost of calling across the region. Mr May said that customers in Kenya will pay Sh23 to call anywhere in the region during off peak time. "Today we witness a major milestone not only for Celtel Kenya customers and potential ones in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. I am delighted to announce the launch of preferred tariffs across all three Celtel Networks in East Africa. The preferred rates within Celtel East Africa apply to both pre-paid and post paid customers." Mr May said. "The new tariff rates for subscribers in Tanzania calling Celtel customers in either Kenya or Uganda will be TSh390 during peak hours, and TSh272 off-peak, while to Uganda it will be UGSh610 and UGSh425 respectively," the CEO said.' Celtel chairman Naushad Merali said that the launch of the new tariffs are part of the firm's strategy to reduce calls on its network across Africa. "The private sector is keen to support the three governments in the East African Community, and the new preferential rates for Celtel to Celtel will ensure that businesses are able to communicate cost effectively , efficiently and reliably." he added.

* The Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC , says new guidelines for the erection of telecommunication masts by telecom service providers in the country will soon be out. The new guidelines, according to the regulatory authority, will spell out many things as regards erection of masts in the country including the exact proximity to residential buildings. This is to allay growing fears that such equipment when sited very close to buildings could pose health hazards.

The Executive Vice Chairman of the telecom regulatory agency, Engr. Ernest Ndukwe who spoke on this issue during the second year anniversary of the NCC telecom Consumer Parliament held last month in Lagos, noted that though the citing f masts close to a building does not impose a hazzad except for the noise, it may however not be too good if telecom masts were erected near windows where people reside. “There should be minimum distance from residential buildings for the convenience of people,” Ndukwe told the parliamentarians, adding that what applies in the developed economies of the world should also apply here in Nigeria which is now the toast of international community in telecom investment.