Celtel, Africa’s third largest cell phone firm, on Wednesday scrapped roaming charges for its users in six countries and said it plans to expand the service to 15 nations across the continent.
The “One Network” service allows its subscribers in countries where Celtel operates to make calls at local rates and receive incoming calls for free.
“We have extended the One Network from Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda to Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo and Gabon. This is a world’s first,” said David Murray, chief executive of Celtel in Kenya.
Telephone links between many African countries have traditionally been bad and in many cases mobile phone users cannot send text messages to other users on the continent.
“Phase three is to bring all the MTC-Celtel properties in Africa together as One Network,” he said, without giving a time frame by which that would happen.
The African operator also runs networks in Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Chad and Zambia.
Murray said the free service would be extended into these countries once some technical solutions had been found.
Interregional traffic jumped 300 percent in the first three months after the launch of One Network in the three east African countries, Anna Othoro, Celtel marketing director in Kenya, said. Safaricom, Celtel’s only competitor in Kenya, has a similar free roaming arrangement with Uganda’s MTN