TELECOM RATES, OFFERS AND COVERAGE

Telecoms

- An overseas call cost savings scheme is taking off in South Africa, with members buying discount call rights and earning money back by referring new customers to the scheme, according to ITWeb. The system, run as a form of multi-level marketing scheme, is operated by a new US-based company, 1cellnet.com. The company went public in the US this week, but has apparently been marketing the service widely in the run-up to its global launch. Customers pay a $150 sign-up fee, which buys them a period of discounted overseas phone calls. For every additional sign-up they refer, they receive money back. Customers report that they will be able to send an SMS to the service provider, who will then place their overseas call via a satellite link and call them back once the connection has been established. The call is apparently significantly discounted. The SA Financial Services Board says the scheme appears to be a multi-level marketing scheme, which is legal in SA.

- Harris Corporation has been awarded a USD24 million contract by MTN Nigeria to supply, design and implement Harris MegaStar 155 radios for MTN’s backhaul GSM network. The new Harris radios provide MTN with higher network capacity and a lower cost alternative to existing satellite links. Shipment of the equipment has commenced, and is expected to be completed by March 2004.

- Uganda Telecom has connected its Kawempe and Wandegeya customers to the self-healing fibre optic ring to ensure that they receive clear signals while making calls. Meanwhile, three petrol station companies (Total Uganda, Caltex Uganda and Kobil Uganda) have entered an alliance with uganda telecom to distribute its products through their outlets.

- interWAVE Communications has received a USD1.3 million contract from Kenya’s Safaricom for phase four expansion of its network in Africa.

- The Chief Executive Officer of the company, Rein Zwolsman, who in an interview with THISDAY last weekend in Abuja said that he is expecting board approval to implement management decision on a national tariff reduction. NITEL board was inaugurated about two weeks ago.

  - Tanzania Telecommunication Company (TTCL) has commissioned its new earth satellite station at Mwenge, Dar es Salaam and says it will start providing cheaper international calls.

- The Vodacom Yebo 5 R60 recharge voucher’s multiple recharge PINs mean up to five people can club together to purchase a single voucher and use it to recharge up to five different airtime accounts to the value of R12 each. "Vodacom looked at traditional methods of commerce and developed the Yebo 5 recharge voucher which reflects how many people conduct transactions in SA," said Mthobi Tyamzashe, Group Executive - Corporate Affairs of Vodacom.