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Econet rollout extended to November

NAIROBI, August 21- The Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) has extended the roll-out date for Econet Wireless, the fourth anticipated mobile operator, to the end of November.

The government had given the company until the end of September to be fully operational or lose their licence.

Econet Chief Executive Officer for East Africa Michael Foley said that they were gearing up for the launch of a re-branded product and expressed confidence that they would launch services in the next three months.

Foley explained that the company was given reprieve to give it time to recoup some of the time lost during the post election conflict.

The company made its investment on December 23, 2007, just four days before the General Election but they were forced to put everything on hold for three months as the violence escalated.

“That caused us a five or six months delay but now we are doing everything we can to get there before November because we made a commitment to do so,” Foley said.

He added that discussions with other competitors for partnerships in use of infrastructure such as towers were on-going as they were looking at reducing their costs.

“Everyone in the market has approached us for site-sharing and we shall make a choice in the next few weeks,” he said.

Noting that the market had been largely dominated by one player, he hinted that their strategy would be to compete on the broadband service platform.

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While admitting that their operations would not be easy owing to the increased competition in the market, he said they would focus on the pricing and distribution aspect in a bid to increase their market share.

He said Kenya presented a huge opportunity for them to make their presence felt and also act as their gateway to the rest of East Africa.

“Kenya will be one head office. We plan to open a call centre here for French, Buganda and English because it’s cost effective to do so,” he added.

Foley disclosed that the company would invest Sh33.5 billion in the next two years on their network and services.

He explained that Econet Wireless International (EWI) would finance the building of the infrastructure but this would not affect the shareholding structure.

Starnet Limited holds 26 percent, Corporate Africa holds 2 percent, Crosslink 2 percent and the remaining 70 percent is held by EWI.

Foley projected profits by the second year and more than three million customers during the same period.

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