Rwandatel recently launched the 3G GSM package, switching from CDMA technology. The country’s second largest telecommunication company also recently fired 120 employees. The Business Times SAUL BUTERA asked Patrick Kariningufu, the company’s CEO about the challenges faced, especially when the third telecom operator is expected to launch operations.
Qn: You recently introduced many packages, how are they perfoming?
We spent adequate time preparing and by the time we launched our 3G GSM network, we hit the ground running.
We rolled out the double your credit campaign, which was an instant hit and garnered us close to 200,000 active subscribers in the first eight weeks.
After that, we did the Choose Your Pair promotion which was well received, particularly by the youth.
Although we have held several other promos since then, this most recent one – the 10 for 30 has been incredibly exciting for the masses.
Qn: You had targeted 600,000 subscribers by end June, did you achieve it?
Within eight weeks, we had captured over 15 percent of the total market share.
We are yet to hit our target. As we speak, we have just over 420,000 total subscriptions.
These campaigns are just beginning to take hold and to translate into actual subscriptions.
Although the figures of new subscriptions are lesser than in the early days, they are still steady which gives us the confidence that we will be reaching our target soon.
Qn: Most of your subscribers are based in Kigali, don’t you think you have done less to bring on board people from upcountry?
As a business company that provides a service to the mass market, we cannot afford to ignore the fact that over 80 percent of Rwanda’s population still lives in rural areas.
Our plan was to have Kigali as the initial launch pad of our revival fest and the roll out of the 3G GSM network while simultaneously building the network and gearing to take our campaigns on the road out of the capital city.
Of the 12 regions we are present in, seven are upcountry while the others are in Kigali. We have also recruited nine another executives into the trade operations, five of whom will be located in the regions out of Kigali.
Qn: Customers complain about network failure with your roaming service, what is the problem?
With this we have to be very precise and look at each case individually.
Look at the countries in which the customer failed to make a call or failed to pick up the network of our roaming partner.
We also have to look at which plan the customer is on. Prepaid customers roam with our partners by default (the service comes automatically) while postpaid customers have to ask through their dedicated toll-free line (075 103) or through their dedicated account relationship managers to have the roaming service activated.
I know our customers can roam within the region with easy. I have recently travelled throughout the region and have roamed with my line with ease in Kenya, Uganda and Burundi.
Qn: You had plans of introducing Black Berry phones, when should your clients expect this?
We are working on this along with a host of other exciting products and services.
Just look out for these in the near future!
Qn: You introduced a postpaid service, how is the public responded to it?
By the time we rolled out our postpaid service, we had a good number of potential customers waiting for this service.
Yet, with all the convenience this service brings, I must admit that the bigger number of customers still prefer the flexibility of loading airtime onto their phones only when they can afford it or when they need it.
Qn: The employees that you sacked complain that they were not compensated. Why?
After the Business transformation exercise that saw up to 120 staff members of Rwandatel informed its former staff members that they would be compensated according to the Rwandan labour law.
All they had to do was to properly handover company assets that had been put in their custody while they worked here.
Now, over 99 percent of these former employees of Rwandatel have handed over everything and have been compensated.
The remaining one percent is yet to hand over, but it is agreed – once they do that, they will receive their terminal benefits as stipulated in the Law.
Qn: There are constant internet connection breakdowns, what is the problem?
Our customers have from time to time experienced internet blackouts. This has been mainly due to the fact that with all the construction work going on in the country, a lot of our fibre optic cables do get cut by mistake.
We have also experienced numerous blackouts due to cases of sheer vandalism where these vandals will do anything to gain access to the fibre underground.
Because this happens quite often, we do everything we can to reroute traffic whenever there is a need.
We also always have a team of technicians on standby to take care of such cases, but in addition to repairing these cables, we are putting in place alternative options to reroute traffic and get customers back online in the shortest time possible.
Qn: Tigo will be launching operations in the near future. What’s your take on this?
Indeed by now we all know that a third operator will be launching their operations real soon and it is expected that this will serve to improve the mobile market.
I think it’s going to be one interesting market, especially for the consumer.
But, allow me the opportunity to point out to your esteemed readers that Rwandatel SA is more than a mobile company.
We are a fully fledged telecommunications company offering voice, data and internet services.