TELECOM RATES, OFFERS AND COVERAGE

Telecoms

- Mascom Wireless-Botswana has launched PayM8 for pre-paid subscribers that allows them to purchase airtime directly from their handsets. The Mascom Direct Top-up service that uses "Verified by Visa" technology will allow Visa card-holders to purchase Airtime using their Botswana issued Visa card as the means of payment. In the near future card-holders will be able to request the available balance on their Visa card, send money to other Visa card holders and even pay their bills directly from their Mascom phone.

- Zimbabwean mobile operator Econet Wireless will this week release more than 10,000 pre-paid lines which will cost $500,000 each after more than three years of stagnation. The discharge of the lines, which will bring relief to subscribers on the waiting list, follows the completion of a major network upgrade over the last few months aimed at eliminating network congestion. Darlington Mandivenga, Econet’s Chief Marketing Officer, said the release of the lines was part of a programme to resume normal sales of Buddie lines.

- Sierre Leone’s Celtel has introduced pre-paid cards valued in the local currency and in due course will phase out dollar-denominated cards. A 250-unit card estimated to cost less than USD3 has already been introduced.

- South Africa’s Cell C is set to launch what it claims is the country’s first airtime voucher that allows subscribers to pay in advance for an entire period’s airtime, while still rationing it for them on a monthly basis. The steadychat vouchers are available in six-month or 18-month options, and can be loaded on to easychat or cy starter packs, although the existing prepaid tariffs will continue to apply. "The six month option allows the subscriber to get 30% more airtime value for only R300. This gives them R390 worth of airtime rationed over a six month period, which works out to R65 airtime per month," says Cell C media liaison officer, Vinnie Santu.

- The managing director of ZTE Nigeria Limited, one of the contractors handling the M-Tel expansion project, Ding Ming Feng has revealed that lack of adequate transmission capacity in the country is impeding the capacity of M-Tel to offer good quality services to its subscribers. Mr Feng explained that the integration of the base stations, which have been installed, has been made difficult because of inadequate transmission capacity in the country. He said out of the 280 base stations planned to be installed by his company, only 80 have so far been installed and out of the 80 installed, only 30 have been integrated, leaving a greater number out of the network.

- VEE Networks Limited, formerly Econet Wireless Nigeria (EWN), a Global System for Mobile (GSM) Communications provider, has fired early warning of its preparedness to compete, announcing a 25 per cent slash in call tariff. Consequently, subscribers to the firm which now operates under the Vodacom brand name, will now begin to pay 60 kobo per second and N30 per minute under the premium pre-paid package Vodago (formerly Buddie).

- Nigerian Mobile Communications Limited (Mtel) last week halved its international rate from N99 a minute to N45 peak period and N40 off peak. The company has also reduced the cost of its SIM pack from N10,500 to N6, 500.