Airtel Kenya

I don’t understand some companies.

I imagine that the primary motivation for a commercial company is profit. For a mass market company that profit lies with the consumers. Keeping our consumers happy is thus a reasonable way of getting more money = happy shareholders. Keeping them infuriated is not a good plan.

Back when they were still Celtel or Zain, I got myself a postpaid line since I ad an online gig that needed near constant internet. Back then accessing net was either at a cyber(expensive and movement restricting) or getting a mobile connection(still expensive and slow but doable)

I used to pay what I pay now for my Zuku connection so I expected proper services. It was fine technically for the most part considering the times and the options available.  At some point they decided to ‘revamp’ the postpaid offering. The resulting interaction led to my breaking of he contract.

The deal we had was this. I pay 4,000/- a month and get unlimited internet and 1000/- for voice /SMS usage. Pretty ok and I had no desire to leave this arrangement. The new plan was more or less the same but voice was cheaper so of course I signed on. Once the new postpaid plan was launched they decided that I no longer needed unlimited internet and started billing per MB. All without as much as sending an SMS or email about it. Come the end of the month I am presented with a bill for 45,000/- bob. The ensuing correspondence between us was basically threats about me signing a contract and needing to pay and nonsense about my phone being off when they tried to reach me.

 I just threw away the line and let them keep the deposit.

Recently I came upon Airtel airtime vouchers that was unused for a past project. The vouchers had since expired and thus unusable.

I have had similar predicaments with both Orange and Safaricom and the matter was dealt with swiftly usually by extending the expiry of the cards and rendering them active again. As explained by @tommakau here it is not a prudent policy for telcos to extend the lifespan of  their consumable products but simply refusing to enable consumers to use legitimately purchased resources is just ridiculous.

Calls to the customer care were unfruitful, Twitter responses were the standard ‘ give us your no. and we get back to you’ (They haven’t.), visits to the Customer centers result in a blank look and my cards being slid across the table back to me. Basically the message is ‘ You shouldn’t have let them expire in the first place.’ For the most part they have no idea what to do with them. Replacing or sorting you out is seemingly not amongst their options.

I now have 3,000/- bob worth of Airtel airtime and the best I can do with it is use them as table wedges or kindling for fire.




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Orange Kenya: Most Infuriating Sleeping Giant

So today I woke up to this from the folks over a @orange_kenya

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Which is a follow up to a full page ad from yesterday where they prove to be the cheaper option for making calls either way you slice it.

Have been an Orange customer since they started operations and I am particularly a sucker for their brand and marketing. Whoever manages this is pretty good at their job. The marketing is however miles away from the actual service that you recieve. I have for instance been complaining about the notification of the end of an unlimited internet subscription cycle. Currently at the end of the month data just starts using your airtime. An SMS a day before this happens would enable me to promptly subscribe again for the next month. But now I am left with no Airtime, no data and feeling annoyed.

Either way Orange are a giant that has been sitting in its own pee for a long time and at least I think they are now starting to think of taking on the new giant whom they allowed to grow up.

I have always advocated for the underdogs to accept their place and work with it instead of calling themselves leading anything. Safaricom is the mother and father of the telco industry as it stands. Market dual SIM phones like your life depends on it, because it does. Orange should infact be only selling Dual SIM versions of all the popular hardware. And sell them at cost. Then market your network as cheap for calls and data. Dont ask anyone to dump Safaricom because they wont. My Safaricom line has never left my side and remains my main line. I however make most of my calls and data and text from my Orange line for purely economic reasons.

Invite users to try out your ecosystem without destabilizing their routine. Cannibalize Safaricom’s market slowly and eventually profits will come.

The way out is not in price wars as Airtel has realized. Be the side chick and even though you may never manage to replace the wife, you will get most of the money. Which is the whole point anyway. Dont seek to replace Safaricoms SIM, fight for space next to it. There is a reason Safaricom never sells any Twin SIM handset. Its a mortal threat and they know it.

I thought Yu were going to go this route but they just joined the Line and are now angling for an exit.

Orang has another Troika in its arsenal but is content with leaving it as a dumb data pipe. The CDMA network that the predecessor Telkom Kenya worked so hard to build is basically now Modemland. Launch a slew of Smartphones that run on CDMA and sell them for cheap. Make data on this network cheaper than on GSM because I believe technically this is the case. Now you know that anyone who buys this handset is not going anywhere and the tech assures this.

Why they are not negotiating with AT&T for their old iphone 4 s that run on CDMA to resell locally for super cheap is puzzling. Here they have a network hat is  mostly idle that assures lock in and revenue and they do nothing to monetize it.

Meanwhile lets see how much money Safaricom makes this quarter.


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Unlimited Internet : Here we go again

It has become a fad of late for telecom companies to offer or rather appear to offer unlimited Internet suites to its clients.

Orange Kenya has had an unlimited Internet offer on its 3G+ platform for a while now and it more or less worked as advertised. You pay 990 bob and you get unlimited Internet for a week on limited speeds maxing out at about 512kbps. This varied with time of day, no. Of users etc but was more or less reliable and you knew what you were getting.

Safaricom not wanting to be left behind on the unlimited internet bandwagon launched theirs with almost identical terms but a more stable speed expectation. Yu and Airtel have similar programmes but they are still on EDGE so they don’t count for this post.

Orange launched ‘proper’ 3G recently and with it expectations that finally the 3G dog fight between the two behemoths was finally hear. I bought enough popcorn for a month anticipating the media battle, the offers and counter offers. Alas none of that happened but I still expected something awesome from camp Orange.

I’ve got to tel you something at this point. I love Orange. There is something about the name, the colours, the advertising and the overall feel to the brand that draws me in keeps me locked. Which is why I bitch a lot about them. If your partner or lover doesn’t rant about you then hamna mapenzi humo. They will just walk out or they are just bidding their time. And to prove my love for the brand this post was uploaded on an orange connection.

So today they launched an unlimited offer on their 3G platform. You can see more here. Problem with this is that it is misleading.

Unlimited burdened with a fair use policy is like saying dead but kinda alive. Unlimited is an absolute. You can’t have conditions. The plans offer you true 3G speeds . . .to a maximum of 1gb usage thereafter you crawl along at 64kbps. 64kbps !! That’s even slow on my phone. And we have 2 active fibre connections and more coming. 64kbps.

Safaricom offer unlimited broadband capped to speeds of 512kbps from day one. And it’s truly unlimited. You can download whatsoever your heart desires. And more often than not you will hit these speeds.

Orange are letting me down. They have a superior network as far as I can tell but they don’t seem to want to use it to their advantage.

Iko nini?

Turns out the guys at Tech Mtaa have gotten Orange to raise the FUP
rate to 256 kbps. Let’s see how it plays out.

Orange + iPad

I gotta tell you folks I am pretty convinced that Orange Kenya are the kings and queens of unfinished business.

I first observed this prior to the launch of the iPhone 3G. Here was a multinational with a kick ass brand launching the most superior handset on the planet backed by a company that is literally loved by its fan boys and they didn’t even have a 3G network or even a promise that this was forthcoming. This was moronic in my view but in retrospect it may have been a good move.

As Seth Godin keeps saying, Ship! move whatever crap you have in your warehouse however horrible it is. Criticism and ridicule can only improve you.

Skip to 2011 and a fella called Mwangi needs a microsim to slip into an iPad and rock on the impressive 3G network that is pimped by Orange. Just to make things clear, i have options. Airtel and the Safaricom both have decent 3G offerings so this choice has nothing to do with technology. Just loyalty and after all they do stock iPhones so handling an iPads needs should be painless no?


Its like a psychedelic induced mole believing your behind is its rightful home. The seemingly clueless customer care do not help one bit. Here is a rudimentary checklist.

  1. Do they stock Microsims? = yes
  2. Is the no. on the microsim easily visible? = No
  3. Is it visible at all? = no
  4. Does calling customer care help? = no
  5. can you top up? = yes
  6. is there a confirmation? = no
  7. can you buy a bundle ?= no
  8. Does customer care help? = no
  9. Do you feel like slapping someone ? = YES

With Safaricom on the other hand we have this wonderful site that lets you buy bundles direct from the browser. Doesnt matter your device all you need is airtime on it.

Money and customer loyalty is not rocket science. How do Orange imagine iPad users on their network will top up, buy bundles and happily browse?



I have just received a call from orange and they are trying to sort me out. They also say they are in the final stages of creating a web portal to carry out such activities on non USSD compatible gadgets. Thumbs up!

Update 2

They have since launched a web portal through which you can manage any no. that you own or use. Now buying bundles and loading airtime is a breeze. Kudos !! You can find it here