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Kenyan consumers benefit as mobile service ‘war’ erupts

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With less than a month having entered the mobile market, Telkom-Kenya has registered more than 30,000 new connections to its freshly minted GSM mobile phone service, sending warning shots to the entire market.

The East African said the phenomenal response has led to Safaricom and Zain, dominant players in the GSM market, have effected significant tariff reductions over this period.
Zain has introduced the Vuka tariff, which offers a competitive and pocket friendly flat calling rate of Sh8 to any network.
For Safaricom subscribers, off-net and on-net tariffs are on offer, with calls within its Ongea tariff dropping to Sh5 from 10pm to midnight and Sh 2.50 a minute thereafter to 6am for network calls.
Whether Telkom-Kenya can leverage on its partnership with Orange, the key brand of France Telecom — its majority shareholder — to tilt the scales remains a guessing game for now.
“We are still transferring all the technology used by Orange worldwide,” said Dominique Saint-Jean, the chief executive officer Telkom-Kenya.
In an exclusive interview with The Standard, Saint-Jean provided a glimpse of Telkom’s ambitious plans for the next three years, the time frame within which his team expects to achieve a complete turnaround.
“We shall soon fully display our integrated convergence operator strategy beginning next year,” he said.
“We have already seen the level of competition increase as a result of the relaunch of Telkom-Kenya and this is a good sign,” he added.
Orange, the commercial brand of France Telecom, and used in all countries where the multinational is present, is expected to improve Telkom-Kenya’s strength as a
“The Orange brand brings a new set of values and promises to customers,” said the CEO.
Orange is in French-speaking West Africa where it has been successful and is looking at replicating the success in the local market. The brand is also in Botswana, Mauritius and the Indian Ocean region.
“Our initial focus will be to bring expertise, training and new methodology to Telkom-Kenya staff, including behaviour change,” said Saint-Jean.
Currently, Telkom-Kenya’s GSM mobile network service is limited to Nairobi and Mombasa. In the short-term, Telkom-Kenya aims to become an integrated communication solutions company, providing GSM, CDMA and fixed line services to meet their specific needs.
“This is what will set us apart from the competition,” said Saint-Jean.
The company is also targeting the entire consumer spectrum, including low-income end, corporate, SME market, home and office segments.
“We are busying the GSM network to offer solutions to all these market segments,” he added.
The process of technology transfer between Telkom-Kenya and Orange is expected to go on until the end of the year before it launches the integrated operator strategy.
Among strategies that Orange will employ includes maintaining the public booth concept-a key feature in the Telkom-Kenya portfolio.
These facilities will be upgraded to meet the changing realities of the market, including making public telephony with Internet access.
Telkom-Kenya’s dilapidated fixed line has been a target of vandal attacks affecting its reliability.
This is especially so in the rural areas where overhead cables have been most affected. Also hit are underground copper wires in urban areas. Maintenance on fixed lines is ongoing.
“The approach to mitigate against this menace is to complement the landline with the CDMA wireless offer, especially in the rural areas,” said Saint-Jean.
Over the past eight months, Telkom-Kenya has been busy improving the quality and reliability of its fixed line.
Its landline service is also yet to recover from image problems, including poor billing, factors that have triggered the exodus of subscribers to mobile phone
“We are hoping to bring back previous landline subscribers, once we regain their confidence,” said the executive.
Telkom-Kenya is also eyeing the Internet market, and will be using its huge stake in TEAMS project.
It will be using public phones to enable rural people access the Internet.
Formerly a state-owned company, Telkom-Kenya will require some time before staffs discard their lingering parastatal mentality.
“We cannot achieve sustainable change within months. Releasing full potential of staff, moving from technical to customer service, and meeting expectations may take some time.
Telkom will be riding on France Telecom, which serves close to 174 million customers in five continents, to make a dent in the market.
For the moment, the beehive activity at Telkom Plaza provides a valuable snapshot of the state of play among operators.

By East African

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