Airtel dangles free social media to grow users

Monday January 25 2016

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Airtel has introduced a new free daily data bundle that offers WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter setting the stage for a possible price war with Safaricom.

The telecom is riding on the popularity offered by the Over The Top (OTT) services to drive usage through its “UnlimiNet 20 bundle.”

The bundle is the most affordable offering voice, SMS and data, when exhausted, subscribers can still access the popular social network sites.

“Since the launch of UnlimiNet bundle in February last year, it has grown by a double digits monthly,” said Airtel CEO Adil El Youssefi at a press briefing Monday.

While Safaricom’s Sh20 bundle offers 35 megabytes data and 35 text messages, Airtel bundles priced the same, offer free popular social media sites, 20 megabytes data, 20 text messages and 6 minutes.

The telecom has invested Sh20 billion to revamp its business over the next two years, with data taking up majority of the money.

Poaching game

UnlimiNet has posed competition to Safaricom, with both firms engaging in a senior officials poaching game to tap into new expertise and defend existing talent.

In the past two months, Priscilla Muthoni (digital manager), Marion Wanyoike (segment lead-youth) and Wallace Chege (business performance analyst) have crossed over to Safaricom from Airtel.

The three joined Mr Charles Wanjohi, formerly marketing director Airtel. He joined Safaricom in July as head of department - consumer segments.

While at Airtel, Mr Wanjohi led a team in inventing the UnlimiNet data plan, the poaching therefore pointed towards the data price war between the two telecoms.

Airtel has also introduced new weekly and monthly bundles on its UnlimiNet plan: with Sh50, customers enjoy 10 free minutes voice calls to any network, 50 free SMS to any network and 65MB data weekly. To access the data plan, customers dial star 544 harsh.