Kenya’s mobile network operators have been embroiled in recurrent competitive campaigns since the country reported its first mobile phone use close to 12 years ago.
The rivalry between Safaricom and Airtel Kenya has necessitated innovations and designs intended to maintain a competitive edge. Perhaps one of the most noticeable and confusing trends by Airtel, unlike Safaricom, is the frequent name change in its tenure of operations in Kenya.
There-brandingto Airtel marked the third time the company changed names. Kencell became Celtel Kenya in 2004 and Zain Kenya in 2008, before the company rebranded as Airtel Kenya on October 15, 2010.
It is also evident that for every new service or product launched by Safaricom, Airtel reacts by introducing comparable ones at times at lower costs.
An example includes Safaricom’s ‘Okoa Jahazi’ service, that enables pre-paid customers to access airtime on credit, from as low as KSh10 of airtime to as much as KSh100.
Although the service, it seems, was intended to help Kenyans at times when they are most in need, Safaricom further charges a 10 percent fee, or ‘advance service fee,’ for the service.
The ‘Okoa Jahazi’ is payable within 72 hours, failure to do meaning a user is blacklisted by the system and denied access to the advance credit facility for 14 days. For instance, when an individual gets the ‘airtime on credit’ worth KSh100, the company takes away KSh10. On the user’s next actual top up, Safaricom deducts the initial 100 received despite the fact that ‘advance service fee’ was deducted.
A user pays an amount he did not get to use. In short, he borrowed 100, used 90 but paid back the 100 without question.
Airtel has the same kind of service, ‘Kopa Kredo’, only that (maybe for the purposes of competition) when a user borrows any amount, no charge is made. When a user requests advance credit worth KSh100, Airtel grants the user the exact amount, no service charge.
This sounds like a comparison of who has the best service. Even so, it comes at a dear price, and one would put blame on their systems. If it so happens, a repay is done before depleting the borrowed amount, it is cancelled and the actual airtime you loaded on your phone is used forth, and in the meantime you have repaid an amount you did not fully utilise.
These include some of the services from mobile network service operators that mobile users in Kenya are not aware of, but mobile companies are raking profits from them, ‘virtual money’.
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