TELECOM RATES, OFFERS AND COVERAGE

Telecoms

* Cellphone subscribers in Kenya will next year be able to switch networks and retain their numbers. Last week the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) said it had selected Kenya Network Information Centre (KENIC) to manage mobile network swapping services. KENIC will start managing the mobile phone numbers database once the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) services is implemented in July 2005. The regulator will charge Sh1,000 to a subscribers who switch numbers across the network to deter them from moving unnecessailry.

* Albert Kan-Dapaah, Minister of Communications, on Thursday launched Ghana Telecom's new call centre at Ghana House in Accra Central to provide customers with up-to-the-minute information on enquiries and complaints. The Centre would allow customers to report faults to GT 24 hours a day.

Zamtel has finally launched its prepaid fixed line service in Lusaka. Speaking at the launch of the service on Monday evening, Acting Communications Minister Ludwig Sondashi said the new service would make Zamtel collect its dues in advance and at the same time enable customers to take control of their expenditure. Sondashi said the TelZ prepaid landline service, was a milestone in the provision of affordable services tailored to the business community and individual customers. “Government ministries will be among the first account holders,” he said. The introduction of the Zamtel prepaid landline cost the company US USD3.8 million and has been made possible through the installation of an intelligent network (IN) platform. Zamtel acting managing director Woods Simbeye said the company procured the equipment for the prepaid line service through own resources. “We have paid everything and from own resources,” he said. Customers on the prepaid land phone service will be given a choice of either loading credit in advance or punching in the card number each time a call is to be made. The service will eventually be extended to Southern and Copperbelt provinces, as these are the areas that have digital exchanges.

* Post-paid Telkom customers in South Africa will be able to send and receive SMS messages from their home phones as from December 1. The service will be offered free of charge during the trial period, which runs until the end of February. The service is part of Telkom's strategy to establish itself as the data solution provider of choice. To send and receive SMS text messages, customers need to subscribe to Telkom's Identicall service, and have an SMS-capable telephone instrument. Identicall is a Calling Line Identification (CLI) system that displays the number of the line that is calling. The monthly Identicall charge is R9,85, offering the added advantage that callers are identified. To order Identicall, call 10219 toll-free. Customers who already have Identicall will be SMS-enabled automatically.

  * MTN Nigeria Communications Limited has introduced a N400 airtime voucher to complement the existing range of recharge cards. Subscribers can now recharge their phones with the N400 airtime via Virtual Top-Up, the 12-digit PIN number received via Short Message Service (SMS) or sales voucher.

* South Africa’s dominant telecoms company Telkom SA has issued a new set of tariffs for 2005, much to the surprise of industry regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), which has only just drawn up a series of guidelines specifically designed to curb Telkom’s tariff increases. As a result ICASA says it may have to force the incumbent into lowering its proposed fees for next year. Telkom filed its 2005 tariffs last week despite knowing that the industry watchdog was about to publish its own regulatory regime which would most probably render them unacceptable.