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Celtel still studying 3G tech

NAIROBI, May 19 – Mobile phone company Celtel Kenya said Monday that it was conducting a feasibility study around the launch of the 3G technology and would only introduce it if it proved viable.

3G technologies enable network operators to offer users a wider range of more advanced services such as wireless voice telephony, high speed internet access, mobile video calls, and broadband wireless data.

Celtel Corporate Communications and Public Relations Director Michael Okwiri however told reporters that the company was mostly concentrating on increasing mobile telephony penetration to the lower end market before venturing into other services.

“We are developing a business case for that and if it works out for us, we definitely will introduce it,” he explained, noting that to roll-out the 3G technology would only benefit urban dwellers who have access to high speed data and voice services, thus denying the rural people the opportunity to be connected to mobile telephony.

“What we are focusing on right now, is where the low hanging fruit is,” he added.

This revelation comes in the wake of heated competition for the provision of advanced high speed voice and data services among mobile phone providers.

The launch of GSM technology that is designed to provide many multimedia services is the latest trend.

The newest entrant into the market is telecommunication firm Telkom Kenya, which is set to roll out its GSM technology in October to complement its fixed lines.

At a press conference, he also said discussions on the lowering of interconnection charges were still ongoing. 

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Okwiri spoke after the launch of a service where prepaid subscribers would, beginning Tuesday, pay Sh3 for calls made from Celtel to Celtel throughout the weekends and which would also be instituted from 6pm to 6am on weekdays.

The new rate, he added, was not a temporary promotion but a permanent value proposition.

“This benefit will be enjoyed by all potential and existing Celtel subscribers irrespective of their tariff plan,” he added.

The introduction of the service comes a few days after the government, through the Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo predicted that calls could come down to as low as Sh2 by mid 2009.

However, the director denied that the lowering of their rates was not in connection with the PS’s analysis saying instead that the review of its charges was an exercise that the company undertakes very frequently.

At the same time, Okwiri told Capital Business News that Celtel would change its name to Zain in the third quarter of 2008.

The brand “Zain” is in reference to the operator’s parent company Zain Group.

The move would be effected across all 15 countries in Africa where Celtel operates.

He expressed optimism that the re-branding would have a positive impact on Kenya and its subscribers.

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Okwiri observed that the move would give the company the opportunity to enhance and re-emphasise its presence in the continent.

“It gives us the chance to talk about our superior product and good pricing,” he enthused.

Although he declined to reveal the exact amount of money that the group would spend in the exercise, Okwiri said the investment would be substantial.

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