Safaricom floors Airtel in roaming charges


A Safaricom Shop located along Kimathi Street as pictured on March 8, 2023. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

Safaricom beats Airtel Kenya at offering Kenyans travelling to other African countries cheaper roaming charges despite the latter having a larger footprint on the continent, a study shows.

The study by two competition watchdogs found that even in countries where Airtel Kenya and Safaricom had partners with which they paired, the latter was still cheaper.

Airtel Kenya had the highest roaming charges in Africa making it costly for Kenyans outside the country to call back home.

Done by the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) and the African Competition Forum (ACF), the study found that Airtel Kenya’s high roaming charges — which apply when a user leaves the 'home' network area— are despite the telecommunications provider having a presence in 15 countries on the continent.

Countries that have Airtel and MTN networks that Kenyans are able to roam using Safaricom and Airtel Kenya are fairly priced.

Read: Safaricom to lose Sh2bn in call tariff cut

“Safaricom pairing tariff is, however, notably lower than Airtel charges across Africa,” said CAK in its annual report for Financial Year 2021/22.

Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is the most expensive region to make calls to Kenya, receive calls from Kenya and make calls within the region.

The five-member trading bloc of the East African Community (EAC) is the cheapest region for Kenyans to roam, with CAK attributing this to the One Network Area (ONA)

In May 2017, Airtel, the parent company for Airtel Kenya, announced it had reduced its postpaid roaming tariffs in Kenya.

The new rates of up to 99 percent tariff reduction targeted common travel destinations for Kenyans and businesses including the US, UK, UAE, China, Canada, India, South Africa, Qatar and Turkey.

Airtel said that customers visiting other countries would enjoy reduced data roaming rates at the rate of Sh14 per MB where initially they were charged up to Sh1,859 per MB.

The cost of calls would also go down for those calling from countries such as China. Nonetheless, the study by the two competition watchdogs— a cross-country study in the roaming service within the telecommunication sector—found that Airtel was still the most expensive in roaming charges on the continent.

“Across Africa, Airtel Kenya has the highest costs of roaming despite having a presence in fifteen (15) countries. The roaming agreements could be investigated further,” said CAK.

Read: Airtel cuts down Safaricom's voice, mobile data, SMS grip

Most of the roaming traffic is in EAC, with Kenyan subscribers in Uganda leading in both inbound and outbound calls, SMS and data usage.

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