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Celtel brings East Africa together

The operator's single, cross-network tariff is the first of its kind in Africa

MTC subsidiary Celtel International has announced the launch of One Network, the first ever borderless mobile network in Africa, which will allow customers to move freely across geographic borders without roaming call surcharges and without having to pay to receive incoming calls.

Starting September 27, all Celtel's East African subscribers, both prepaid and postpaid, have been able to use this service.

They can make calls at local rates, receive incoming calls free of charge and top-up their prepaid phones with locally-bought airtime cards.

Alternatively, Celtel's prepaid customers may top up their accounts with airtime cards they have brought from their home networks, whether in Kenya, Tanzania or Uganda.

The One Network service is automatically activated upon crossing the geographic border into another of the three countries, with no prior registration required or sign-up fee charged.

In addition, Celtel's postpaid customers who previously only had access to national calling will be able to place calls across all three East African countries, without restriction.

Talking exclusively to CommsMEA, Marten Pieters, Celtel International CEO said he would like to see the One Network model expanded to other parts of the continent, though challenges to such a programme remained significant.

"The reality (of expanding the One Network concept further) is that there are a lot of obstacles, not so much technical obstacles, but more regulatory and tax obstacles," Pieters explained.

"It is actually very difficult to do this because all the countries do have their own tax systems, their own levy systems, their own value added tax, all kinds of specific telecommunications things and they all want to make sure that they do not lose a penny of tax revenue.

So getting this whole thing in order tax-wise is really the biggest challenge," Pieters added.

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