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Kenya’s telecom rivalry heats up, brings down charges 

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Intense competition in Kenya’s telecom market has hit the fever pitch with consumers turning out to the biggest beneficiaries as voice, data and text messages charges decline to a new low.

Kenya has currently three mobile service providers with the largest being Safaricom, which is followed by Airtel and Telkom.

Airtel and Telkom, which control about 25 percent of the market, started the battle to shore up their numbers by introducing packages that allow consumers call, text and access internet at minimal charges, a report released by Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) in December 2017 showed.

It made giant Safaricom counter in bid to maintain its market leader position, in effect bringing down charges across the board.

Consequently, the telecoms in the East African nation are currently shifting to offering data, voice and SMSs as a bundle, with the consumer paying only once for the three services.

This is a major deviation from the past where each was charged separately making consumers spend more.

Kenyans are, therefore, currently paying as little as 0.10 dollars to access data, calls and SMSs the entire day.

And to sweeten the deal, some telecoms are offering free calls within the network and SMSs in the bundle to lure consumers on their side as others charge 0.02 dollar per minute for calls, down from 0.04 dollars within network and 0.05 dollars cross network.

Telkom Kenya has a tariff called Freedom, a data bundle that comes with free WhatsApp, free calls and free SMS. One needs 0.39 dollars to 29 dollars for daily, weekly or monthly offers to enjoy the service.

On the other hand, Airtel has what it calls Tubonge tariff that offers subscribers free inter-network calls and cross-network calls are charged at 0.02 dollars a minute.

Safaricom, on the other hand, boasts Flex that it describes as a flexible way to browse, call and SMS with only a single bundle. One spends between 0.5 dollars and 25 dollars for the daily, weekly or monthly service.

Consumers are relishing the new packages, with the biggest beneficiaries being those with multiple SIM cards of different firms.

“This is the best thing to have happened to the telecommunication sector in Kenya. I never knew I would ever make a call at 0.02 dollar per minute. It looked a distant dream but thanks to competition, it has happened,” said Joash Onyango, an accountant in Nairobi.

Onyango noted that with the packages, he no longer needs to worry about buying data or SMS bundles and making calls expensively.

Bernard Mwaso, a consultant with Edell IT Solutions, noted that the telecoms are coming up with the bundles to maximize on data, which is one of the biggest sources of revenue, thanks to increased use of smart phones.

“Kenyans are consuming millions of gigabytes of data every day, which makes telecoms to focus on internet market, and for some, free calls and SMSs become a value addition.  

The strategies seem to be paying off for the telecoms, especially for Telkom, which has gained considerable number of subscribers, according to the latest data from the Communication Authority.

Statistics for the sector in 2017/2018 showed Safaricom market share dropped from 72.6 percent to 71.9 percent.

Similarly, Airtel dropped from 15.3 percent to 14.9 percent while Telkom Kenya’s market share went up to 8.4 percent from 7.2 percent.



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