TELECOM RATES, OFFERS AND COVERAGE

Telecoms

- The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has tasked the telecommunication operators in the country to adopt a common approach to issues and abide by minimum benchmarks in their operations to promote transparency in networks and accountability to the public. The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Mr. Ernest Ndukwe, said during the monthly Telecom Consumer Parliament held weekend that it was wrong for instance for MTN to continue to charge N100 from subscribers migrating from billing option to another. Although the Commission had at several times promised to take action against MTN, it was yet to do so. Ndukwe said it is not proper and does not conform with international best practices for an operator to charge subscribers when switching over to either per second bill or per minute billing option.

Ndukwe also advised Lagos PTO, Reliance Telecommunications to withdraw a misleading advert which it is currently running. In the advert, Reltel had led subscribers to believe that its tariff to GSM is N20 while high speed Internet is advertised at costing N5000 monthly. Also, it announced free Reltel to Reltel calls 24 hours a day. But in very tiny type front, the operator went ahead to add that "The above offer is available only in Lagos. N20 per minute for calls to GSM and Free RelTel to Reltel calls are available under Friends & Family Plan. N20 per Minute includes VAT @ 5 percent. N5000 monthly Internet is for access option from 8PM to 8AM. Other options on Internet access also availableâ-oe"

- Globacom, the Nigerian SNO has unfolded plans to take control of the Eastern market. The plan would see the company build a capacity for nearly two million subscribers within the next three weeks in this region, which prides itself as the fastest growing GSM market in Nigeria. Technical manager in charge of Globacom's operations in Benin, Nsi Eke, said the company would increase the capacity of its switch in Benin to accommodate 900,000 subscriber lines by December this year. Work has already started on the switch in Benin. In Port Harcourt, Engr. Olajide Aremu, the Chief Technical Officer Interconnect and Network, said the company had already begun work to expand its 250,000 capacity GSM network switch to 810,000 before the 15th of December 2004.

- Liberian mobile operator LoneStar Communications Corporation (LCC), the nation's foremost mobile phone company, has once again extended a goodwill gesture to its numerous subscribers just a month after crediting their respective calling accounts with USD5.00. This time around, the LCC has not only adjusted the expiration dates for its subscribers, it has introduced a lot of soft measures that include a big reduction in the prices of SIM Cards, Scratch Cards, and the calling time which is now being charged per second.

- South African operators should brace themselves for an increase in customer churn and the possibility of a price war when mobile number portability (MNP) becomes a reality. That's the word from Gopal Govinder, management consultant at Ericsson SA. He says that cellular operators should start positioning themselves for MNP by aligning it with their service offerings in such a way that it makes a positive difference for their subscribers.

- Ghana Telecom has launched three new products: Utouch, ONEtouch and Itouch. Utouch is aimed at young people with cheaper rates during off peak period, which is between 7pm and 7am Monday to Friday. ONEtouch is the normal pre-paid service with reduced rates during peak periods which is between 7am and 7pm. Itouch is a service for the business market. From December, ONEtouch customers will be able to send text messages to other cellular mobile networks and get more minutes per unit for calls made."

- Starcomms, a Nigerian leading Fixed Wireless Operator, in a bid to further expand its range of innovative products, launched a Mobile Data Card last week.

- MTN Uganda has launched a new fixed line telephone product dubbed 'My Y'elloline.'The features include hands free, voice and data, display screen, call line identity, a 16-hour standby battery and SMS functions.

- Namibia's Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTC) has expanded its network to the Otjombinde Constituency in the Omaheke Region.