Zimbabwean mobile phone manufacturer G-Telecoms has signed a contract-phone partnership deal with Airtel, after a snub by Safaricom which it had approached when it entered the country about three months ago.
Under the deal, G-Telecoms will sell contract phones to customers who will be hooked onto the Airtel network, and pay for the handsets in monthly instalments. Buyers of G-Tel smartphones will get pre-set airtime, SMS and data bundles for use every month.
“We have signed with Airtel to sell their airtime with our products, that is why our devices come with airtime because of the deal we have,” said the G-Telecoms Kenya CEO Virgil Musvosvi in an interview. The company had initially intended to sign a deal with Safaricom which, however, did not work out.
Contract phones, where buyers pay in instalments, are a popular concept in the US and Europe but are not common in Kenya where mobile handsets and airtime are sold separately.
G-Telecoms is a family-owned business with a manufacturing plant based in China. The firm has been in the phones industry since 2008, focusing on the Zimbabwean market until its entry into East Africa in May.
Mr Musvosvi said the partnership with Airtel was also informed by the telco’s big network in Africa, which would ease its entry in countries where Airtel already has a presence.
“We are bringing in the Europe and USA model where subscribers can choose repayment packages that fit their pockets ranging from Sh1,900 to Sh5,990 per month, we are not competing for retail space but rather building our own business line,” he said.
“For each device bought the customer gets 400 free minutes of airtime spread across all networks, 200 SMS, 3GB of data per month, free WhatsApp, Facebook, Instragram and free G-mail for a period of one year,” added Mr Musvosvi.
There is no timeline on when the partnership with Airtel will end.
G-Tel mobile phones are not locked to Airtel subscribers. They are also open for use on other mobile service networks. The company has projected a sale of 300,000 units in Kenya by June next year when its financial year ends. It plans to open three shops in Nairobi and two in Mombasa within two months and expand operations to Nakuru, Eldoret and Kisumu.
Customers will also be given new upgraded phones whenever the company introduces a new device, while retaining the ones they already have.
G-Telecoms will also open a research and development centre in Nairobi which will be used to develop software as well as design phone features that will later be sent to China for production.