Rwandatel the country’s incumbent telecom operator, that has just launched its 3G, GSM technology is targeting more than 600,000 mobile subscribers by end of 2009.
The company which is jointly owned by LAP Green networks a subsidiary of Libyan African Portfolio and the National Social Security Fund of Rwanda (CSR) has announced that by June 2009, it is set to have at least 350,000 subscribers.
With 600,000 subscribers Rwandatel would have achieved almost half of the national telecommunication market share.
MTN Rwanda which is Rwandatel’s only competitor has slightly more than 1 million subscribers.
However Rwandatel currently has over 55,000 subscribers in all the services they provide. Officials said yesterday that with the new company’s technology, their network can currently handle over 1 million subscribers.
With an investment of $71m, Rwandatel officially launched their long awaited, internationally popular 3G, GSM technology that will allow subscribers utilise advantages that come with the usage of a SIM card. GSM is an acronym that means Global System for Mobile communications.
With 3G GSM, the user is able to conduct wireless video calls and access broadband Internet in a mobile environment.
According to Abdulbaset Elazzabi, the Chairman, Board of Directors of Rwandatel, previously the company was operating with the CDMA platform which was not good for voice communication.
Elazzabi said that CDMA would be retained for data communication.
”GSM service is 82 percent used world wide and it is available in over 212 countries, CDMA was not used anywhere in the region so GSM is the preferred network for the global mobile market,” Elazzabi added.
Rwandatel has been operating under the traditional CDMA technology, which was not covering some rural areas and it has been inferior to international roaming between GSM carriers.
The company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Patrick Kariningufu said that, “We are confident and we are sure the equipments we have are of high quality and ready for any competition with in the region.”
Kariningufu said that Rwandatel is halting the usage of CDMA mobile phones but other services would continue operating as usual. He said that, Rwandatel’s network would soon be operating a roaming service with Uganda Telecom (UTL), offering another cross-border network between the two countries.
Uganda’s UTL is one of the foreign telecom companies where LAP Green has a stake.
In UTL, LAP Green owns 69 percent shares.
“Our GSM network will cover all of the major cities and roads, with the 3G UMTS covering most of the urban centers and by the end of February 2009 the whole will be covered,” Kariningufu said.
Only MTN Rwanda, MTN Uganda, Vodacom and Safaricom have been offering a cross-border network under the ‘Home and Away’ package.
Zain also offers a seamless ‘One World’ network across a cross section of more five countries.
Rwandatel placed on sale a UMTS technology based Huawei U120 phone that is being promoted during the on-going launching activities. UMTS is a recent generation of mobile systems being developed within the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) IMT-2000 framework. It is part of a new generation of broadband multi-media mobile telecommunications technology.
Rwandatel now provides its customers with a wide range of services, like Gift 4 you which is the ability to transfer credit from your phone to another Rwandatel subscriber commonly known as Me2u.
“With Rwandatel’s tariffs our customers don’t need to be concerned, international calls are very cheap compared to the other Telecom companies in the region. Calling Europe goes for only Rwf200 per min, in the region it goes for Rfw155 per min and locally it is Rwf1.3 on the billing system,” Kariningufu explained.
Rwandatel has recruited about 73 engineers from India and China to train young Rwandan engineers and staff.
“Rwandatel believes that the latest technologies can have tremendous impact in the developing word, more so on a country like Rwanda that believes in emphasising the roles of ICT in creating knowledge based economy. That will assist in transforming the country into a middle income nation towards its Vision 2020,” Kariningufu said.
Huawei Technologies is one of the world’s leaders in the telecommunication industry. It is a private high-tech enterprise that specialises in research and development. It serves 31 of the top 50 telecoms operators and puts 10 percent of revenue into research each year.