“One Network” is a new unique global technological proposition where Airtel subscribers enjoy uniform tariffs on both voice and data platforms while roaming on (Airtel) network no matter which country you’re calling or browsing the internet from.
A strong regional telecom player in EAC members states; Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Airtel penetrates Rwandan market with this unique product as its competitive advantage over competitors, as announced by Manoj Kohli (CEO) International and Joint Managing Director, Bharti Airtel during the official launch at Airtel Rwanda headquarters in Remera, Kigali, March 30, 2012.
Other data services on offer are mobile money transfer services, affordable handsets plus cheap call rates on voice platform.
Manoj also announced at the launch that Airtel subscribers, under the “One Network” product will be able to send and receive money (mobile money service) at uniform tariffs across the region (EAC) and globally in countries Airtel operates.
Airtel’s launch in Rwanda now expands its footprint on the African continent to 17 countries, and commits to invest over USD 100 million in its operations over the next three years which will generate direct and indirect employment opportunities to Rwandans.
Presiding as chief guest, the Prime Minister Right Hon. Dr. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi pledged government support. “We are looking forward to partnering with private sector to provide good quality, accessible and affordable telecommunications services and are especially excited about the prospect of connecting Rwanda with the rest of the East African region and, indeed, with the rest of Africa”.
As Rwandans begin engaging in business ventures and looking for regional partners, telecommunications companies – like Airtel – that are able to provide access to a pan-African wireless network, become a crucial part of expansion.
Airtel is world’s 5th largest telecommunication company with a subscriber base of over 250million customers on both voice and data platforms. Mr. Manoj in his speech said on average Airtel adds at least 3million new subscribers per month and targets being the 3rd largest globally in 3 years.
Airtel, whose origins are in New Delhi, India, has been in operation for now 17 years.
Unique Business Proposition
Mr. Manoj explained that Rwanda and India have a lot in common—noted that they are both developing countries with similar socioeconomic development aspirations. Airtel’s main focus is the rural community—the Bottom of Pyramid (BoP) business model. “A big percentage of our customers come from the rural areas, in all countries we operate. The launch in Rwanda is a new phase for Airtel in Africa. Rwanda is very symbolic for us”, he said.
Airtel has also partnered with IBM in a move that will enable the telecom to offer superior customer experience in Rwanda. The partnership will see IBM deploy and manage the information technology (IT) infrastructure and applications to further support Airtel’s goal of providing innovative mobile services.
“As part of our strategic services agreement, we are happy to assist Airtel with its entry into the Rwandan market and ensure the very highest levels of support,” says Steve Martin, IBM Vice President and Senior Project Executive, Airtel Africa. “Rwanda is an important market for IBM and we are actively strengthening our local presence and increasing our ability to serve our customers and partners in the country.”
Ericsson, the world’s leading provider of services and technology to telecom operators, was selected to manage the network from end-to-end, including OSS/BSS solutions and managed services.
Lars Lindén, head of Region Sub-Saharan Africa for Ericsson, says: “This solution is using the latest Ericsson portfolio, and will be the first Airtel network designed as an all-IP solution. That means Airtel will be able to provide advanced services to its subscribers, expand quickly to accommodate quick growth, and keep operating expenses down.”
Additionally, this launch has set a record. Lindén adds: “The inaugural call was placed on the system on March 7. It took just 83 days to build this network from the start – the fastest Greenfield launch in history in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Rwanda is among the fastest growing telecom markets in Africa and, according to the National Statistics Institute of Rwanda, mobile penetration in the country was at 38.4 per cent as of July 2011. The rapidly growing private sector – which includes telecommunications infrastructure and ICT – presents many opportunities for the development of the industry and the country’s economy. In fact, according to the World Bank, each 10 per cent of broadband penetration results in a 1.3 per cent increase in per capita GDP growth in developing countries.
Mr. Manoj pledged, on behalf of Airtel, to partner with Government of Rwanda in fostering Vision 2020 through digitalization of services, in her (Rwanda) quest to become “Singapore of Africa”.
Assured Government Support
Prime Minister delivered President Paul Kagame’s message, in which he quoted him: “Our decision to work towards an ICT and knowledge based economy is a decision rooted in practical realities and challenges within Rwanda”. Through the ICT Policy, the Premier said Rwanda has invested, and continues to invest in ICT to enhance investment in the sector. “The Government has identified ICT as an enabler for Private Sector Development and a as means of Rwanda’s socioeconomic development. The investment in 2, 600 km world class fibre optic network and the national data centre is an illustration of our commitment”.
“We look forward to seeing Airtel play a key role in realization of Rwanda’s ICT development agenda,” Dr. Habumuremyi said.
On record, President Kagame has championed making ICT a tool for socioeconomic development.
The government has created a conducive business atmosphere for doing business, notably the reforms in legal and regulatory business environment. In this regard, the Premier cited the consumer protection and competition laws.
Special Call to Airtel Rwanda
The Government of Rwanda looks forward to the new third operator in telecom sector—Airtel—as a p-layer that will accelerate penetration to be able to hit the national ICT targets. Rwanda, in its ICT strategy, aims to hit a target of 8million subscribers on voice, and 5 million subscribers on data by 2016. Penetration on both platforms now stands at about 5million subscribers on both data and voice for the two operators who have been in operation for long enough.
MTN Rwanda had 2,892,827 subscribers and TIGO Rwanda 1,553,367 subscribers as of end of 2011 statistics released by Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (RURA). MTN Rwanda began operations in 1998, while Tigo, which is owned by Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular SA (MICC), started operations in 2009.
Prime Minister made a special call to Airtel: “ Specifically, we would like Airtel to support the ICT development agenda by ensuring demystification of these (other) telecom offerings on the market by including access to services such as mobile banking, mobile money transfer as well as e-health and social media in your product portfolio,” he urged.
Airtel Promise: Reliability & Affordability
At the press briefing, it emerged that Airtel, through competitive bidding bought former Rwandatel network infrastructure, including repeater stations across the country. As though Rwandatel was declared insolvent by RURA about 2 years ago, Lapgreen Company, the former Libyan owner, had invested heavily in network rollout—to a level that could not be matched by any other local competitor.
This infrastructure acquisition by Airtel is expected to boost network coverage of Airtel throughout the country. And with Ericson, one of the world’s leading IT companies, managing the company’s network, a more reliable connectivity is guaranteed. On data, Airtel has subscribed to a number of ICT backbones, including the Government’s Fibre Optic backbone laid across the country, Easy Submarine cable in order to allow seamless switch-over in case any of them fails.
Airtel was awarded the license by the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) last year in October to operate 2G and 3G GSM mobile services.
Mr. Marcellin Paluku, Country Manager of Airtel Rwanda said Airtel will provide unmatched customer service and innovative products, especially targeting the rural Rwandans. He pointed out that free handset will be offered to subscribers where they will pay back in affordable terms on monthly basis from pay as you go airtime. In addition, all internet calls on Airtel are free. Airtel products and services can be accessed across the country through existing businesses (called agents).
“We are uniquely distributing out products through business outlets to get closer to our subscribers especially in rural areas. Over 250 business outlets across the country have already identified and authorized to sell Airtel products”.
Currently, the Airtel brand is present in both Francophone and Anglophone markets across the continent, spanning Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia