TELECOMS, RATES, OFFERS AND COVERAGE

Telecoms

* Moroccan incumbent Maroc Télécom on Thursday announced cuts to all of its fixed line call tariffs, including a 5% reduction in the price of fixed-to-mobile calls. It also abolished connection fees for all fixed line customers, whilst raising monthly subscription fees by MAD10 (USD1.11). The company said the rebalancing is aimed at increasing fixed line telephony usage in both the residential and business sectors.

* MTN Nigeria has launched GPRS services, including MMS, to its entire subscriber base. MTN is the last Nigerian operator to begin offering 2.5G services commercially and has much work to do to catch up with its rivals Globacom (Glo Mobile), NITEL GSM (M-Tel) and Vee Networks (V-Mobile). The cellco is also confident of launching the country’s first 3G mobile service, possibly as early as the first half of next year. Its South African parent, MTN Group, launched 3G services in its domestic market in July and says that Nigeria is next on its list.

* Nigerian Telecommu-nications Limited (NITEL) has installed a new digital telephone exchange at Agbor in Delta State. The new exchange has an installed capacity of 3,000 lines and 900 trunks. The exchange, a primary centre was cut-over following a final acceptance test conducted by the telecommunications giant recently. Subscribers to NITEL's network in the town would now enjoy modern and efficient telecommunications services, including such value added services as direct dialing, abbreviated dialing, call blocking and caller identification.

According to NITEL's Deputy General Manager Corporate Communications, Mr. Tayo Ekundayo, the town's code number was 055 and all existing telephone numbers having 1 in the town remained unchanged. "More subscribers in Agbo and its environs can now be served using a new numbering range of 250000-252999, but existing subscribers in the exchange area will continue to use the 250000-25999,"Ekundayo said . yesterday He explained that the boost in the facilities at Agbor was in continuation of the company's efforts to modernise and expand its network nationwide, disclosing that cut-over of over 250,000 digital telephone lines would commence soon in several locations across the country to satisfy the yearning of the populace for more efficient telecommunication services.

* Vodacom recently announced a tariff of R2,99 per minute for all pre-paid calls made during peak times from 7am to 8pm, based on per second billing.

The new rates, approved by Icasa, represent a reduction of up to 17%, and will impact on 13 million Vodacom subscribers. This is applicable to Vodacom-to-Vodacom calls, as well as calls to Telkom and other cellular networks, and is effective from Monday. Commenting on the announcement, Alan Knott-Craig, Group CEO, Vodacom, says: “The Happy Hours rate, announced on Friday last week, of R1,49 (for all peak calls between 5pm and 8pm for Vodacom-to-Vodacom calls), represented a discount of up to 55% for pre-paid users, now with the new rate of R2,99 per minute, we will further extend the benefit in the peak call period. This represents hundreds of millions of Rands in savings to our customers.

“We expect traffic to increase, thereby offsetting to some degree the cost of these significant price reductions. The industry is currently growing more rapidly than it ever has in its 11-year history with new gross connections exceeding a record 1,3m new customers in July this year alone.”

Pre-paid customers already paying less than R2,99 per minute will continue to enjoy the existing lower rate. Vodacom also announced an increase in the off-peak pre-paid call rate of R1 per minute to R1,05 per minute which will only become effective on 1 October. The only other tariff adjustments this year, which are unrelated to the new pre-paid tariff of R2,99 minute, is an average increase in high end contract customer rates for Talk 500 of 1,5%, and an increase in the Talk 1000 package of 2,2%. These increases are also to be effective 1 October.