[the citizen] As competition increases in the mobile phone services sector in Tanzania companies the attention is now shifting towards the quality of services as the best way method to survive.
The reliability of both voice and text messages services is forcing mobile phone companies to invest heavily in the infrastructure and new technologies. Most major firms have already extended their coverage to cover almost the whole country.
It is expected that 'mobile penetration levels' - the number of handsets compared with size of population - is to grow bigger as the National backbone laying reaches completion.
And having outwitted each other in the voice services mobile phones have shifted competition to internet services such that currently mobile telephones is still largely the only way that many people in urban areas get access to the internet because of the poor quality, and often complete lack, of fixed-line networks.
But this has not come without effect. Most major mobile firms have had to employ the 3G technology to improve their services. Zantel will, this year, become the latest entrant into that technology which is designed to enable mobile operators offer its users a wide range of services, including high-speed data, efficiently while achieving greater network capacity.
Norman Moyo, Zantel CEO informs that the firm is set to roll out its 3G network in April, raising the stakes in the battle for the Internet market.
The strategy he chooses is for the firm to be a converged services provider providing data, wholesale and voice services, with the planned network set to offer high speed mobile internet access, mobile video conferencing and videophone, among other services which it cannot provide with its 2.5G system.
He notes that the technology will boost its clientele base including corporate organisations whose employees work in the fields and require faster and reliable internet. "In this case our focus therefore will be on enhancing our network quality for improved customer experience when using our services and launching of innovative products targeting specific segments to ensure that our customers get value for their money," he says.
Fierce competition has pushed mobile firms to tailor better products for consumers while the battle of who offers better in the telephony industry seem to be giving clients broader choices.
But with internet penetration making further inroads across the country, the battleground seems now to be Internet telephony. According to Dr Haji Semboja, a university of Dar es salaam economist, Information Technology is the crane that is cutting across communities' work and with the advantages of packages offered by telecommunications companies; the market is getting more vibrant.
"And more telecommunications are vying to grab the lion's share of this rapidly emerging market as they roll out one product after another, "he says
Currently, Zantel communications set-up is based on a 2.5 G network whereby voice and data services are based on a General Packet Radio Service otherwise known as GPRS.
"Our GPRS data network has been improved with the usage of EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution) that can deliver throughput speeds on the network faster than GPRS performance speeds," Mr Moyo says
It is an innovative movement towards accessibility and availability which he says has improved the overall consumer experience when retrieving data anywhere.
But in the first half of the year, he notes that the newest implementation to their network will be the introduction of the revolutionary 3G, a system, he says, will directly compete with other leading communication companies within the country offering their consumers a choice between GPRS/ EDGE and 3G wide-area coverage on voice calls and Internet access.
With this in mind our strategy is to be the first converged services provider by offering data, wholesale and voice services. He says the firm would further focus at growth of its broadband business, target the corporate, high value customers and retain their existing customers.
"This means we are aiming at spot one in Internet, corporate segment, in wholesale capacity, and a profitable operator in the country in terms of profit before interest and tax," he says.
He notes that this year would see a more focused strategic operation to concentrate on mainland regional sales such as Arusha, Mwanza and Tanga whereby data and voice services will be the primary focus.
The 3G technology, he says, will be implemented in phases starting with Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar and later to other parts of the country.
"In such a competitive market, innovative ideas are imperative and therefore naturally result in investment."
He says that recent consumers' studies have determined that data services are starting to dominate voice services.
"Undeniably ,this is a world that loves to talk and emphasis should be placed on creating reliable and affordable voice and data services as they are tasked by the business to provide and maintain a quality network, "he affirms
But as the industry grows, this will also provide more horizon for students pursuing courses in telecom engineering as the demand for such specialists will also increase.
"As the market revolutionizes so will there be a shift in trend on employment needs, and that means universities and vocational institutions would have to increase output," he says.
Zantel Set to Roll Out 3G Network as Telecom Rivalry Grows