Rwandatel’s first week’s sale of its new 3G and GSM [Global System for Mobile Communications] mobile phone has attracted large crowds at its various outlets around Kigali.
At the Union Trade Center (UTC) mall, a Rwandatel outlet was, as early as 10:30 in the morning, being swamped by excited people; so much so that other potential clients had to be held back by security to prevent overcrowding.
While the Rwandatel outlet could barely handle the hoards—just across the aisle, the MTN Rwanda outlet looked unusually quiet and deprived of attention.
“The prices of phones with a camera have reduced. I also bought a SIM card to change the way the phone operates” said one visibly excited customer, clutching his new phone.
Ivan Nshimimana had a more straight-forward reason; “I have come to buy a cheaper phone and get tickets to the show.”
Rwandatel invited Sean Paul, a renowned Jamaican musician based in the United States of America and other artistes to the launch of their new 3G and GSM product.
Nelly Mugiraneza, the Rwandatel outlet Manager at UTC said that the client’s handsets compatible with CDMA technology are being replaced at no additional cost.
“Those with the CDMA technology were configured and we have them in our system. Once the clients come, we shall look in our data systems and replace their handsets with new ones. They don’t have to pay extra.”
The queues were shorter at the local Remera Rwandatel outlet.
Furaha Jean d’Amour, from Kiyovu, who bought a new SIM card earlier had returned to buy a phone.
“I bought a simcard and using Rwf1,000, I called Uganda, Canada and some friends in Rwanda. Then I came this morning to buy a phone. It is nice,” he said.
Furaha said that he had been on the MTN network since 1999.
Speculation is rife that Rwandatel’s change to GSM technology is going to stiffen competition in the mobile telephone market.
When contacted by this writer about Rwandatel’s move into the, hitherto, monopolised market, Yvonne Makolo, the MTN Rwanda Sales and Marketing manager said that, “we (MTN) have always said that we welcome competition. It will be very good for the market.”
When questioned about MTN planned reaction to this new player, she said that MTN would give a reaction in the coming weeks.
The GSM rollout follows Lap Green, a Libyan company, taking over Rwandatel. It has 80 per cent stake in the once state owned telecom company. Lap Green promised to inject $317m to turnaround the loss making company into a profit making entity.
Formed in 1993, Rwandatel has changed ownership twice; first came Terracom, an American firm in 2003, and presently Lap Green.
The relationship between the US-based Terracom and the Government soured after it failed to meet the contractual obligations.
Presently, the telecommunication market in Rwanda is a duopoly with MTN Rwanda controlling majority marketshare.
However, Millicom Telecommunication was recently granted a third mobile phone operator license.
Millicom comes into market at a time the government estimates that by 2012, 50 percent of the population will be accessing telephones.
Millicom Telecommunication, based in Luxembourg, Germany will be operating in Rwanda under its brand name, Tigo.
Rwanda will be the third nation in East and Central Africa that will join the Tigo family after Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rwandans are soon going to be spoilt for choice.