Smart Telecom Burundi, backed by Industrial Promotion Services (IPS) Kenya, part of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), in partnership with Cyprus-based, Russian-owned Timeturns Holdings, has relaunched its mobile network services under the unified Smart brand shared with its new sister east African ‘Smart’ operators in Uganda and Tanzania. Following a launch event in late-March, Smart Burundi – the former ‘Lacell Su’ which was wholly owned by Timeturns before IPS/AKFED came onboard as majority owner of the Cypriot-based group’s east African ventures – has begun marketing its revamped services including a rate of BIF75 (USD0.0477) ‘for every on-net call’ advertised on its Facebook social networking site. Smart Burundi also says it will be providing comprehensive mobile internet and voice services, with the stated aim to bring ‘improved service, value and coverage’. AKFED is also the majority shareholder of Afghanistan cellco Roshan and a stakeholder in Tcell in Tajikistan, while the fund also holds the largest investment stake in the SEACOM submarine cable. Its partner Timeturns’ operational interests also include cellular investments in Nepal, Cambodia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Also late last month, Timeturns’ subsidiary in Sierra Leone, Intergroup Telecom SL, belatedly launched its commercial mobile network services under the Smart Mobile brand, having long-held concessions to operate GSM-900/1800 and 3G (W-CDMA) networks. Smart Mobile (Sierra Leone) switched on services in the capital Freetown on 28 March at its new office headquarters. Marketing director Waseem Jabasini told local newspaper Awareness Times that Smart Mobile is hoping to bring ‘transparency and improved customer service’ to the market. The launch was preceded with a ‘teaser’ campaign featuring the operator’s yellow branding colour. Jabasini stated that Smart Mobile will expand its network coverage to rural areas of Sierra Leone by the end of 2014. SIM cards are on sale for SLL1,000 (USD0.228) with pre-loaded credit to that value, while billing and recharge (top-up) will be based on local currency, leones, rather than ‘units’, which the company said will improve clarity and accuracy of charging. The marketing director further revealed that all calls within the network will be free for 30 days from SIM activation as part of the launch promotion, while SIMs are available from ‘numerous’ sales points around Freetown. CEO of Smart Mobile, Ray Akwa said: ‘We are very happy and excited to launch our service to the public. We want the people of Freetown to pilot our network and provide us valuable feedback regarding their experience, in order to improve our network quality during the first months of operations.’ TeleGeography notes that the launch has been awaited since April 2011 when Minister of Information and Communication Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo made the first video call over Intergroup’s 3G mobile network to President Koroma.