TELECOM RATES, OFFERS AND COVERAGE

Telecoms

* Mali's Sotelma has launched a new product in its continuing war with its competitor Ikatel, Mali's SNO and mobile operator. The new service is called Ilafia and offers a combination of fixed and mobile telephony on a pre-paid basis. Pre-paid card values are FCFA2500, 5000, 10,000 and 25,000. A subscription to Ilafia costs FCFA 71,000 including taxes and users get FCFA5,000 of free calls. It is currently being tested on 300 lines but 29,000 lines have been set aside for the launch at the end of the year.

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* SA's Vodacom, SA's last week announced the introduction of the 076 number range in its local network, which is immediately available to new customers.The new number range will add to the existing base of 082 and 072 Vodacom numbers. Vodacom has been allocated two million numbers in the 0761 and 0762 ranges by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa.

* Telecom Namibia has launched a prepaid, fixed-line telephony service called CallMaker, on its Communication Application Platform supplied by Unisys Africa. The new offering services low-income earners, reduces the number of disconnected subscribers who are unable to pay their monthly bills, and aims to retain and grow the telco's 114 000-strong customer base.

* Celtel Zambia Commercial Director Norman Moyo has attributed the lack of service in Chipata and Solwezi districts to the on-going upgrading exercise the company is undertaking. And Moyo has disclosed that coverage in Mongu in Western Province has been normalised. Mongu and Solwezi have been off the network since September 11, while service to Chipata has been erratic since last month.In an interview, Moyo assured that the problem would be resolved in the next three weeks.He admitted that the Celtel network has been on and off in some areas but said once the upgrading exercise was done, service provision would revert to normal.Last Friday, Celtel managing director David Venn said the company was upgrading its network capacity to enable it carry one million subscribers by 2006. Venn said for the present, the network upgrading exercise would facilitate the connection of Chongwe and Kazungula districts, which have been targeted after the launch of Kafue Gorge early this month.