Local call across the border
Users of the network within Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania will enjoy the same voice and data services without having to switch tariffs or make any extra payment.
The service, known as One Network and launched simultaneously in the three countries, will see both pre-paid and post-paid subscribers call at local rates anywhere in the 100 million population East African market.
The firm’s chiefs told reporters during a briefing at InterContinental hotel, that all services will be available to customers wherever there is a Celtel network.
Celtel Kenya chief executive officer Gerhard May and chairman Naushad Merali at the Press conference yesterday. Photo/Fredrick Omondi
Celtel’s breakthrough follows granting of an international gateway licence by Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) to the company allowing it to operate a single system.
Celtel is now the only operator with mobile networks in all three East African Community countries.
Its customers can now buy credit in one country and use it in the other.
“This has been a dream come true. For me, East Africa is now one,” said Celtel Kenya chairman Naushad Merali.
The company pushed for an international gateway for years. It allows operators to bypass other systems, including going through Europe, and hence cut costs – for years.
Celtel, whose main shareholder is cash-rich MTN Kuwait, said it hoped to extend the single unit model to 16 African countries, with a combined population of 400 million population.
The company operates separate regional units: in Uganda since 1995, Tanzania (2001) and Kenya.
Customers were automatically switched to the new system yesterday.
They will pay local charges for calling Uganda or Tanzania, and can use scratch cards from any of the three countries.
Incidentally, the European Union has been pushing for a similar system in Europe, but with limited success.
“The launch of One Network confirms Celtel’s position as the most innovative mobile phone network in Africa enabling us to deliver and even better level of service to our customers,” said Celtel International chief executive Marten Pieters.
The network is expected to tap into the growing business and travel sectors within East African Community, as customers unlike in ordinary roaming services pay nothing for receiving calls.
Celtel Kenya commercial office Mike Dabalay noted the company was banking on huge business and social interaction potential within East African Community. Yesterday, Mr Merali asked governments to recognise the socio-economic impact of mobile telephony. ‘The Nation