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Thursday, February 23, 2012


After what seems like ages, Airtel is finally going to unveil its 3G network in Kenya at the Crowne Plaza Hotel tomorrow.

Staff have been running up and down doing testing and checking reports in the run-up to the long-delayed event.

As we've mentioned before, Airtel has not been good at capitalizing on opportunities that come its way. Since Safaricom raised its tariffs, subscribers have flocked to Airtel but unfortunately, many have ended turning right back.

In recent times for example, new subscribers or returning ones have not been able to get their SIM swaps because of issues with their AUC (Authentification Centre) - basically, old number that have since left the network have not been removed filling up the system and leaving no space for new subscribers.

Gladly, this has been sorted out now, albeit in the short term.

That being said, Airtel launching a  3G system is a big, big step that need not be gainsaid.

Not only does it mean that handsets on their system will now access the net faster and hence make the whole experience cheaper, but also folks will be pretty excited about their 3G modems when they introduce them and the kind of deals they will come with.

Say what you will about Airtel, but the prices Kenyans pay for voice and SMS today are largely due to them.

If a similar shakeup is seen in data, it may well tip the market.

But despite that, Airtel seriously need to deal with a lot of issues if at all they are to have a viable business in this country.

For starters, they must modernize their systems to state of the art, robust, and high capacity network systems that are easy to manage and easily yield business intelligence data and visualizations that support business decision making.

It is not feasible that Airtel in 2012, is still using some of the systems that Kencell developed almost 10 years ago.

Some of these systems have reached end of life, others have so many add-ons and workarounds that they are barely recognizable to the people who designed them in the first place.

A company as big as Airtel should have a serious Enterprise Resource Platform (ERP), Customer Relations Management (CRM) and a serious BI (Business Intelligence) module and even a SMMP (Social Media Management Program) that can serve as an early warning system to a problem that subscribers are experiencing and alert management to deploy resources toward the problem.

Safaricom and Orange have already taken this path. Orange which decided to reduce suppliers for its voice, SMS and CDMA platforms and gave it to ZTE, plans to do the same for its other services.

Airtel on the other hand has too many suppliers, to many outsourced parties, and every time there is a problem, it becomes a matter of passing the buck from this supplier to that.

All in all, congratulations for launching 3G Airtel.

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