Last Christmas, Ms Gloria Ombogo’s elder sister who works in the hotel industry in Rwanda did not travel home to Nairobi to celebrate the holiday with them, yet this did not dampen her spirit.
Ms Ombogo and other members of her family spend time with her on phone, talking for hours on end, thanks to low calls rates.
“I talked with her for about 30 minutes, my mother and father too talked to her at length and everyone was happy. In total, we spend close to an hour on phone,” she said noting that her sister did not complain of the costs as they have been considerably reduced by telecos.
The Ombogo family is one among others across the larger East Africa that encompass Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzania, who relish low call charges.
Families are able to call their kin in any of the countries at the lowest rates since mobile phones spread in the region, with the calling charges dropping by up to 60 per cent thanks to the One Network initiative launched last year.
In Kenya, it was ironic that it was cheaper to call Asia and Europe, but expensive to call the neighbouring Uganda or Tanzania.
Telecos in the East African nation have sweetened the deal for customers.
For $9.8 one gets 70 minutes with 120 SMSs or up to 130 minutes upon conversion of SMSs to minutes or up to 260 SMSs upon conversion of minutes to SMSs in a bundle offered by one of the companies.
“The low call rates are God-sent to us. I used to buy a SIM card whenever I would go to Tanzania or Uganda to escape the high call rates, but this is no longer necessary because the roaming charges are lower,” said Mr Bernard Mwaso, an information technology expert with Edell IT Solution in Nairobi.
He said the low charges reduce the cost of doing business in the region and deepen social integration across the East African Community (EAC).
“Now instead of relying on WhatsApp messages or writing emails, you can call your kin in Uganda, Rwanda or Tanzania without feeling a pinch. It is the best thing to have come to the region,” he said.