In what was widely seen to be Safaricom’s answer to Celtel’s new Umoja and Uhuru tariffs, Safaricom announced that Safaricom customers can call within the Safaricom network for Kshs 10, from December 22 through to January the first.
According to Safaricom’s Chief Executive, Michael Joseph, the new tariff change has nothing to do with Celtel’s new Tariffs. He says that it is a thank you to its customers, the 5 millionth of which signed up a couple of weeks ago.
Evidentially however, Safaricom was not prepared for the customer’s “peculiar calling habits” in reaction to this news. The network was completely clogged up for much of the day as customers took the time to make the calls.
Kenyans had come to accept the networks now usual failings on Fridays, where it becomes so congested that calling is almost impossible. But as they were to discover, there is congestion and then there’s congestion.
Most Nairobians are going up country to their rural homes this weekend and therefore needed to make many calls, while many others were simply making “plot” plans for the evening. A great number of the customers were making calls simply because it was more affordable to do so and that grounded the network.
Celtel was quick to react. As I got into the city centre, I found young people, clad in Celtel T-Shirts had piles Celtel lines on the street next to where they stood selling them at Kshs 100 each. Many shops in downtown Nairobi had queues of people by then frustrated by their inability to call that they decided to change networks.
On the streets, I saw at least 6 women in different areas of the town – never together and they were dressed in neat trousers going about their business. What stood out among them though is they had red and yellow (the exact Celtel hues) polo shirts on neatly tucked into the trousers. The tops had no logos on them but the association was easy to make – at least for me.
Meanwhile, (this is the funniest part) Celtel rushed to their advertising agencies recording studio and recorded one more on hold message. This message was frequently heard by Celtel callers attempting to call Safaricom (many times unsuccessfully).
The message said, “This call cannot be completed due to congestion in the dialed network”