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Safaricom pulls plug on roaming top-up service

Safaricom shop in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Safaricom shop in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Mobile operator Safaricom #ticker:SCOM has discontinued the roaming airtime top-up service allowing subscribers travelling across East Africa to use scratchcards of partner-networks.

In a statement, Safaricom said the Pre-paid Roaming Top-up Service(PPRTU) had ceased “with immediate effect” and advised its clients to use airtime-sharing service (Sambaza) or buy airtime via the M-Pesa platform.

In a paid advertisement, Safaricom said, “PPRTU, introduced in 2008 that allowed our subscribers to use partner-network scratchcards while roaming in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi is no longer tenable since there are better options of topping up rendering the service obsolete.”

The roaming scratchcard service had also been found cumbersome and time consuming as subscribers had to calculate the value of the scratchcards bought before translating them into Kenyan money to know the length of airtime paid for.

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Safaricom’s roaming partners in East Africa include MTN Uganda, Telecel Burundi, Airtel, MIC,Vodacom and Zantel in Tanzania, Uganda Telecom, MTN, Airtel and Orange in Uganda and Rwanda’s MTN and Rwandatel.

The move comes four months after Airtel also ended its partner-network top-up service and instructed its subscribers to use local Airtel scratchcards or buy via their mobile money platforms.

Data from the Communications Authority of Kenya(CA) indicate roaming accounted for 36.9 million minutes of calls made in the last quarter to December 2016, a marginal increase from the 32.13 minutes recorded the previous quarter.

CA statistics also show Safaricom leads with 71.2 per cent market share followed by Airtel with 17.6 per cent with the rest Telkom and Equitel sharing the rest.

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