By Patrick Nduwimana
Burundi's biggest mobile phone operator
U-com said on Tuesday that subscriber
numbers grew 112 percent in the last
12 months as the group expanded
its network and lowered tariffs.
U-com, which is owned by Egypt's Orascom,
said active users hit 530,000 this month,
compared with 250,000 clients in August 2008.
"We have invested in very remote areas and
this enables us to reach a larger number
of people," said Roger Kwama,
a commercial director for Telecel Globe,
another Orascom subsidiary.
"The number of clients also rose in
a short period of time due
to our cheaper services."
The company often lowers call rates and
sells cheap handsets, some for as
low as $16, Kwama told Reuters.
U-com's equipment can serve 750,000 users
currently, Kwama said, but the firm will
install 150 new mast sites to enable
it reach a million more people
by the end of the year.
The central African country had
480,000 mobile phone users at the end
of December 2008, compared with
270,000 in 2007,
according to the industry regulator ARCT.
U-com has signed agreements with
other regional operators to allow
its customers to keep using
their SIM cards when travelling in
other eastern African countries.
The service -- named "Kama Kawaida",
Swahili for as usual -- is already
functional in Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda.
The firm says its network will soon be
connected to an undersea cable link that
is expected to improve Internet,
voice and data services across east Africa.
The tiny central African nation of
eight million people has five active
operators including state-owned
ONAMOB and Africell, partly held
by VTL holdings of the United Arab Emirates.
Others are Econet, a subsidiary of
South Africa's Econet Wireless and
Nepal's Lacell SU,
whose operations started in June.
Another firm, HITS Telecom,
a joint venture between Ugandan and
United Arab Emirates businessmen,
has a licence but is yet
to start operations. (Editing by
Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and
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