Millicom International Cellular, the global telecommunications company that operates under the Tigo brand has just launched its mobile phone services to the Rwandan market.
With significant telecom operations in neighbouring DR Congo and Tanzania, there is potential to create synergies between the three businesses over time.
November last year, saw Rwandatel switching to GSM services and this was followed by a rapid increase in its subscriber numbers.
The numbers now seem to have reached some kind of a plateau and the entry of Tigo on the scene is bound to complicate things further.
In the meantime, the first operator MTN Rwanda which claims more than 80 percent of the market share is also trying to figure out ways of increasing its subscriber base.
The efforts by MTN which boasts of a wider coverage, large numbers, and a history of ten years uninterrupted, all go a long way in making life harder for the newer players, Rwandatel and Tigo.
The trend of new telecom operators enjoying a sharp rise in subscriber numbers at the beginning of their operations then a period of stagnation is now common knowledge.
The older and more established players in the market tend to hold onto their huge numbers leaving the marketing executives in the new telecom companies with endless afternoon headaches over how to go beyond the plateau phase of subscriber growth.
This is attributed to the fact that a good number of telecom subscribers are reluctant to make the move from one service provider to another due to the anticipated inconvenience that comes with getting a new phone number and informing all your acquaintances about the change.
More so, a big number of those who move do it for explorative motives and end up just having an extra SIM card they hardly use save for the times they badly need to make cheap calls to the same network.
In the long run the new network will have sold lots of SIM packs but without realising a corresponding increase in the revenue.
The newer telecom operators in Kenya realised this dilemma and lobbied the Communications Commission of Kenya to implement the Service Provider Number Portability.
The newer players like Orange Telkom and Yu hope to benefit from this arrangement by winning over those who have been reluctant to move from the established giants like Safaricom and Zain Kenya.
The service gives consumers the option of retaining his/her number even after switching to a different network.
In other words if the system was in place here, one would be able to move to Tigo but continue using the number they have been using on MTN or Rwandatel’s network.
Just like in South Africa where the system was first applied, Kenyan telecom companies are bracing themselves for an increase in customer migrations and the possibility of price wars when the proposed mobile number portability becomes reality in a few months.
May be it is time Tigo and Rwandatel presented the same proposal to Rwanda Utilities regulation Authority (RURA).