TELECOMS, RATES, OFFERS AND COVERAGE

Telecoms

- Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom has launched an automated airtime top-up service enabling debit and credit card users to top up their accounts from their handsets. The new service has been developed in partnership with global mobile commerce solutions company PAYM8, and Safaricom hopes to expand the service to enable users to pay for utility bills directly over their mobiles.

- LiberCell, the biggest mobile phone in area coverage in Liberia, has expanded its services to the City of Robertsport in Grand Cape Mount County. Robertsport is now the 12th major city and headquarters linked through mobile phone by LiberCell since beginning its operations nearly two years. LiberCell has linked Montserrado, LAC and Buchanan in Grand Bassa County; Kakata, Totota, Robertfield, and Harbel in Margibi, Gbarnga and Bong counties respectively, as well as Voinjama in Lofa County and Tubmanburg in Bomi County.

- Last Saturday Ghana Telecom increased its telephone tariffs.

It reduced its landline to mobile charges to ¢1,400, with calls to UK and Germany coming down to ¢2,800 per minute. It is offering free midnight calls as a promotional offer. The new rates for local and trunk calls were however given without an indication whether they had been reduced or increased. But clearly, in reality, GT had increased its local and trunk call charges from ¢150 and ¢200 respectively to ¢500, constituting increases of 233% and 150% respectively!

- Rwanda Utility Regulatory Agency (RURA) is set to regulate charges to enable the less privileged members of society to access the communication services. According to the Director General of RURA Dr. Faustin Ntezilyayo, the initiative, to be supported by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will set modalities where economic and interconnection of the telecommunication network would be rational.During a presentation to the gathering at the Kigali Institute of Science, Techno logy and Management (KIST), ITU Consultant and Telecommunication Manager, Abosee Akue-Kpakpo, noted that traffic sales for Telecommunication in urban areas are exclusively for the network of the operator."There must be proper coordination between regulatory agencies and telecommunication sole proprietors to set charges that are convenient to the local majority whose income and access to such a service are limited," Akue-Kpakpo noted.

- Ghana’s largest cellco Spacefon Areeba (formerly Scancom) boasts of now offering the lowest call rates in the country after upping its pre-paid card call time by 20%. Areeba’s lowest call rates now work out at around GHC1,000 (USD0.11) per minute off peak and GHC1,500 (USD0.17) at peak times, with tariffs as low as GHC500 (USD0.6) for ‘friends and family’ numbers. The cellco also increased the validity period on all cards by between 30 and 70 days.

- Telkom Kenya yesterday raised cost of local telephone calls by 16 per cent. In the new tariff structure that comes into effect on November 1, local calls will cost Sh10 per three minutes up from Sh8.60 In a bid to promote trade and communication within the East African Community, the cost of calls to Uganda and Tanzania went down by 25 per cent. Callers to the two countries will now pay Sh30 per minute down from the previous Sh40. Managing Director Sammy Kirui said the high cost of local calls had been justified by current charges that had been subsidised by high cost of international and regional calls.

Charges on international calls remained unchanged though the company introduced new service; VoIP calling that offers an alternative calling option that is cheaper. Also unchanged were installation charges that remained Sh2,300 for post-paid and prepaid accounts.The monthly access charge remained at Sh500 for post-paid accounts, while deposit remained at Sh2,300 for post-paid accounts with no deposit required for prepaid accounts. However, pre-paid service users will be required to spend at least Sh500 per month in an effort to encourage them to recharge their accounts. "The tariffs have therefore been maintained at 90 US cents (Sh66) at peak time and 64 US cents (Sh47) to any part of the world though for prepaid accounts, 16 per cent VAT will be added on these charges," he said.

"The Introduced international VoIP tariffs range from as low as Sh15 per minute to Sh30.

- Some value-added network services (Vans) have received their 087 voice over Internet Protocol (Voip) numbers from the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), but they are not sure if it solves the interconnect question. According to an Icasa source, about 10 Vans were given approval late last week to use various number ranges within the 087 national dialling code. Among those given approval were UUNet, Internet Solutions and DataPro."The packages of numbers ranged in blocks of 1 000 and 10 000," the Icasa source says. Elia Tsouros, UUNet executive for business development, says his company was awarded three blocks of 10 000 numbers in the 087 740, 741 and 742 ranges.