, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 19 – Mobile telephony operator Safaricom has introduced Sh5 and Sh10 denomination airtime vouchers in what it termed as a bid to make mobile services more accessible to its low-end market.
This comes as a step up of the Sh10 airtime offering, that was only available via electronic top up and Sh20 voucher.
Speaking during the launch on Thursday, Safaricom Chief Commercial Officer Peter Arina said the introduction of the low denomination airtime was as a result of realisation that most of its low income customers could not access Safaricom services because of lack of airtime.
“We are simply responding to the mass market where we feel most of the revenue is,” he said.
The introduction of the new airtime vouchers is also poised to enhance Safaricom’s penetration into the market, especially in the rural areas.
Mr Arina believes it will further deepen Safaricom’s leadership in the local market, which has seen it gain a market share of 77.5 percent by numbers and 83 percent by revenue.
“This will complement our Super Ongea tarrif where customers can talk for as low as 80 cents,” he said.
For the six months to September 30, 2009, Safaricom achieved a 21 percent increase in subscriber numbers to 14.51 million up from 11.96 million previously, which Mr Arina expects to keep rising.
This latest move is likely to alter the competitive space in Kenya’s telecoms business, which some operators argue has been wanting. In the recent weeks, a few players in the telecoms industry have been calling on the Communications Commission of Kenya to implement regulations that deter anti competitive pricing.
Some have expressed opinion that Safaricom was opposed to any new legislation fearing it would lose its share of the market.
One such area has been on number portability, which enables mobile telephone users to retain their numbers when changing from one mobile operator to another.
Mr Arina however dispelled those allegations welcoming any regulation that fosters a vibrant competitive environment in the market.
“On the contrary we are not opposed to number portability, as we say all the time we are open to competition and we would gladly welcome it,” he said adding it would give mobile customers an options to choose an operator they felt was affordable.
Interconnection charges could be another example, where Safaricom’s charge is pegged at Sh15 while the CCK has set the charge at Sh4.40. Mr Arina highlighted they were working closely with the regulator to work out a formula of how to bring it down even further.
“Over the years the interconnect rates have been coming down and continue to come down and with the encouragement of CCK we are willing to participate in any discussions to bring the down like we have done in the past,” he said.