The telecom’s entrance into the Rwandan market earlier this year has already triggered a price war amongst the country’s three operators, as it offers the cheapest call, SMS and data costs.
Airtel, which has over 300,000 subscribers registered on its network, has ensured that its BlackBerry service prices undercut those of Tigo and MTN. Airtel will charge Rwf2,500 (US$4) and Rwf10,000 (US$16) in weekly and monthly charges respectively, compared to the Rwf4,000 (US$6) and Rwf12,000 (US$19) charges from Tigo and MTN.
Country director Marcelline Paluku said the service demonstrated Airtel’s commitment to developing innovative but affordable products for public use.
"Despite the high required standards, we know that Rwandans deserve the best," he said during last Friday’s launch in Kigali. "Our experience in the global market allows us to rollout the best of products among which are Blackberry services."
Paluku said Airtel was looking to make it easier for Rwandans to use technology to communicate.
"Providing these services at that price doesn't mean that they are cheap but instead, they are affordable and efficient," he said.
Airtel is looking to cut into the subscriber base of Tigo and MTN, who have 1.6 million and 2.9 million subscribers respectively. The company’s US$100 million investment in the country has already seen prices fall, with MTN forced to half its data prices and cut its call prices in response to Airtel’s challenge.
The undercutting policy is one that Airtel has followed in all the African countries it has entered, though it has yet to prove profitable. In Kenya the government waived a requirement for the company to be 20 percent locally owned as Airtel could not find a buyer given the company’s lack of profitability.
This fall in prices has assisted Rwanda’s fast-growing telecommunications market, with the country targeting 60 percent mobile penetration by the end of the year.