It is always a good thing to have competitive choices for any product because fair rivalry pushes innovation and, in the end, the consumer benefits – at least, theoretically. In this scenario, Kenya’s second largest telco Airtel is following the route taken by the likes of Safaricom and Telkom to expand 4G availability to major towns in the country, a move that will see the service reach more people outside Mombasa and Nairobi.
Airtel did not specify the target urban centres, but our guess that the country’s major town will benefit from this development, so be sure to check your connection once in a while.
Having gained subscribers in the excess of 2 million in the last couple of quarters, Airtel is for the first time treading on the right after a series of tussles with regulators, including the CA for which the operator argued that the Kes 2.5 billion licensing fee for 4G spectrum was too much owing to the numbers it commands and its dipping profit margins. The fee was paid anyway (hence the rollout of 4G) – but that has not been the only thing attracting customers to the brand.
A report by mSurvey lauded its efforts in appealing to Kenyans thanks to favourable pricing in data, voice and SMS products. The efforts were upped with a permanent drop in call rates to a low Kes 2 per minute to any network. Collectively, these efforts are called for if Airtel needs (it wants to) to net a wider customer base.
Expanding LTE to more towns should roughly translate to improved speeds, although reliable internet coverage has never really been Airtel’s forte. Often, Airtel’s social media feeds are full of complaints related to data: yes, the plans are cheaper than the competition, but a substantial amount of data bundles make little sense if they can’t be used reliably.
Together with Telkom, Airtel has been mounting pressure on regulators and Parliament to declare Safaricom a dominant player. Apparently, Safaricom’s rigidity in revising its pricing and overall business model bars others from innovating and is said to use its market share to dictate terms that only work for them.