Econet Kenya says on course for November launch

NAIROBI – Kenya's third mobile phone licensee, Econet Wireless, will launch its operation in the second half of November with a higher target of 3 million subscribers, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

Majority held by Johannesburg-based Econet Wireless International, the firm had planned to launch this month with plans for one million subscribers, but it had to reschedule due to undisclosed challenges.

"We are moving like crazy right now to get ready for the launch in November," Michael Foley told reporters.

"We raised our launch target figures mainly because of the market research that we have done. We see a lot of demand for change and a new kind of service and we don’t want to get caught short."

Kenya’s mobile telephony is dominated by Safaricom, which had 11 million subscribers as of June, representing about an 85 percent market share.

Kuwait’s Zain occupies the number two spot, which Econet hopes to challenge with an investment of $500 million over two years.

Foley said the company is working with Ericsson as the sole vendor for its infrastructure, including base stations. Neither firm gave details of the deal.

Econet will also introduce a mobile phone money transfer platform in conjunction with Opal Pay, for the yet to be named network which is mainly aimed at young customers.

He added that the group would be making an announcement in two months on expansion into the wider region.

Mobile phone use in east Africa’s biggest economy is estimated at just over a third of the population by the market regulator Communications Commission of Kenya.

France Telecom’s fixed line operator, Telkom Kenya, is set to launch a mobile service in the beginning of the fourth quarter. With Reuters