TELECOM RATES, OFFERS AND COVERAGE

Telecoms

- Mobile telephone network operator Econet Wireless Zimbabwe (Econet) has deferred a tariff increase that had been slated for this month, the company’s brand manager, Christian Mhlanga, has announced. Econet, which last made a tariff increase on January 8, did not give reasons for the development. The announcement is set bring relief to mobile phone users, who have lately had to bear with the frequent tariff increases as the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe has become more amenable to cellphone networks’ requests for regular tariff reviews.

- Telkom says the finding by telecoms consulting firm NUS Consulting that its international calls are the highest among 14 major economies is fundamentally flawed and overlooks a number of crucial factors. An NUS Consulting survey found that Telkom’s international rates are 63% higher than the next most expensive country surveyed Finland. The survey also shows that SA’s national call costs are the highest, moving from third to first place in 12 months. Other countries surveyed included the US, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands NUS Consulting MD George Rahr says the most noteworthy trend is that the cost of local calls in SA escalated from fifth to second highest in the survey, with only Belgium being more expensive. He said Telkom’s high charges "severely hamper South African organisations in their efforts to compete in the world’s major markets" a factor which will cost Telkom its corporate customers should a competitor be introduced soon.

But Telkom insists that its call rates are highly competitive and among the most affordable in the world. It says the latest research done by London-based telecoms consultancy firm Tarifica shows that Telkom’s international rates remain low despite lack of competition in the South African fixed-line market. Tarifica says Telkom’s rates are the lowest compared with its peers in the Middle East and the rest of the African continent.

- Celtel customers in Uganda will save up to 24% under a new single call rate to all networks introduced by the company recently. Under the new system dubbed ‘Uganda One’, the savings translate into sh110 for calls from Celtel to any other mobile phone network and sh20 for calls within the Celtel network. This applies to calls made to fixed lines as well. "In effect, you save up to 24% of your total call costs," Vivek Goyal, Celtel’s commercial director said in an interview last week.

- MTN Nigeria has introduced its current Easter bonanza package, reducing the price of its Prepaid package to about six thousand five hundred naira, between March 22 to April 6, 2004. However according to the Vanguard, accusations have already been made that the company is not issuing enough lines to keep up with the promotion and those selling are simplyputting up the prices. For example at Otigba computer market, an MTN pre paid line under the current Easter bonanza, goes for as much as N9600 while at Balogun Auto parts section of the Balogun market in Badagry Expressway, it is selling for as much as N10,000. MTN’s Public Manager probably got it right when he blamed the situation on mischievous people who are buying and hoarding the available lines, with the intention of selling them at premium after the bonanza.