Lap Green Network recently appointed a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for its Rwandan subsidiary Rwandatel to replace Patrick Kariningufu. Business Times’ SAUL BUTERA interviewed Issiaka Maiga Hamidou the company’s new CEO.
Below are the excepts
QN: What is Lap Green’s long term vision for Rwandatel?
The Group is very committed to the African market and they want to concentrate on offering better services in telecommunication.They are taking Rwandatel to be a reference and the more investments in Lap Green the more investments in Rwandatel to develop the technology of information and communication in Rwanda.
QN: Rwandatel has had a row with MTN over the interconnectivity fees. What is the situation like?
Sure we have some issues with the interconnection with the MTN and regarding some meetings we have had, the issue will be solved soon and the matter is being taken serious on the group level. So, definitely the situation will be quickly solved.
QN: Consumers expected your deal with SEACOM to bring about cheap and seamless access to Internet. But that has not been the case. What is the cause for constant Internet cuts?
Though we are connected to SEACOM, we still have some problems. In the technical field, especially when you are dealing with a microwave technology which can have environmental impact of which the environment sometimes a human being can not control.
From the boarder, we are using a microwave connection and this microwave sometimes faces challenges. That is why there are some internet cuts that we are experiencing.
We are working with an experienced team and by 2010, the connection will be very good without experiencing any issues.
QN: Rwanda has close to 10 million people and both MTN and Rwandatel, you make up to slightly above 2 million subscribers. How many active subscribers do you have now and how many are you targeting next year?
Regarding mobile technology, all mobile operators are the same. We have 500,000 active mobile subscribers in our first year of operation. We believe if we continue with this pace, in the next five year we will be the leaders in numbers of subscribers and our investment plan will help us to reach this target.
QN: What is your view on the intensifying competition in the telecom industry?
In the telecommunication field competition is open and Rwanda is a very good operating opportunity for operators.
So Rwandatel is going to focus on the customer side, to understand what they need, know the price and also try to understand the market very well by listening to costumers by providing them with new services and motivating them to rely on our network.
QN: What is going to be your pricing strategy?
Rwandatel always wants to be the leader and keep the leadership of the price and in our strategy we want to understand the purchasing power of Rwandans and we want to continue giving the better prices to our clients
QN: What are Rwandatel’s current call tariffs and mobile internet tariffs?
Starting with mobile internet, on the flat rate you pay Rwf41,500 per month regardless of the network whether it is 2G or 3G to have the connectivity.
Regarding voice, we are in a process of doing some reviews but prier to that we have Rwf1.5 per second. We also have per minute tariffs on vuga and isange which is Rwf80 and the per second is Rwf1.25. These are transitory, we are making some adjustments and they we charge in the next 48 hrs.
QN: What is Rwandatel’s current internet market share?
For data, which is for the cooperate services and internet for everybody, we have 65 percent market share and in cooperates, meaning banks and Government the share is slightly higher at 70 percent as regards those institutions that rely on our backbone for data transmission.
We have a target of which we have already committed of being the leader in the total telecommunication services not only mobile services because telecommunication services include data and voice.
QN: Uganda Telecom (UTL) and Rwandatel contracted Green Future Ltd to bring a fibre-0ptic cable to Kigali. When will the cable reach Kigali?
Yes, we signed the contract with our sister company in Uganda (UTL) and all the necessary documents regarding the deal of lining the cable from the boarder to Kigali in 2010 are already and it is official and it is known by the regulator (RURA) and they are aware of every step.
So to land this fibre-optic cable the Government is putting some pipe and all operators will come and join this pipe, we already have our plan and the finance, so we are just waiting for the Government to finish and they give us the go ahead to start doing our part.
QN: What are the new products in the pipeline?
When you want to be leaders in the market, regarding to our objective we have to be innovative and creative for new services.
That is why we are concentrating more on Mobile Money Service. According to our study, most of Rwandans don’t have bank accounts.
We have put much effort in launching this product and by early 2010 the service will up and running and we think this will help in developing the economy of the country.
QN: You also had a plan of introducing Blackberry phones. How far have you gone with this?
The Blackberry product needs a process and actually we are working on the process and soon we will commercially launch the system but people should know that Blackberry is not the only system for connectivity or receiving Emails, we have the technology and any 3G mobile phone has the capacity to receive and send SMS and all Emails, so its not only Blackberry can provide these services.
So for any of our customers on our network with a 3G mobile phone you can directly receive your Emails through internet everywhere you are because we have a good internet connection, we have a large bandwidth and these services can be accessed anywhere in the country.