Safaricom goes VoIP

Safaricom and Celtel both received internet gateway licenses which will enables them to bypass Telkom on international calls.

While Celtel promises some good things for consumers in the future, Safaricom immediately launched 888 VoIP service with calling costs of 30 shillings per minute (to US, Canada, Australia, Europe, others) 40 (around East Africa) and 50 (to India, others) – all billed per second.

I have made a few calls and the quality is quite good. More details here on the service, including some rather harsh terms and conditions.

Who Cares?
Also today Safaricom cell phones started displaying location messages – You look at your phone screen and it says where you are at the moment e.g. “Nairobi West”, “Upper Hill”, and “City Center”.

13 thoughts on “Safaricom goes VoIP

  1. coldtusker

    International calls are still too expensive! They should be reduced even further esp with cybercafes charging 15/- or less!

    Imagine if the idiots in the government had given the licences sooner the cost of calling would have dropped even further sooner!

    We need a 3rd mobile phone provider to reduce the cost of local calls!

  2. 69//

    Though 30/- is still quite high, quality matters even more. The Telkom voip service has become unusable lately due to choppy sound and a latency between 3-5 seconds.

    About the location thing, it serves as a stark reminder that mobile phone operators can tell quite a bit about us: where we live, where we work, where we visit often and without even examining our calls. Scary huh?

  3. Anonymous

    I guess the feature that tells your location could come in handy if you were jacked and in the boot of your car;now if the jackers relieve you of your phone before tossing you in there, then it’s useless(Al)

  4. Kagz

    Ksh 30 for intl calls is way too high. When i was in Kenya last year, some cybers were charging Ksh 8 & this came with quality reception, so Safcom & Celtel are still givin Kenyans a raw deal.

  5. bankelele

    coldtusker: They can be lower, but this one can be done from convenience of cell phone. Econet is dead, so we’ll have to wait for the SNO (with mobile license) though am sure Safaricom and Celtel will also demand equal access

    Prousette: Strange – and you can have two phones next to each otehr sating different locations

    69//: Still high, but much cheaper than the 200/= per minute before that

    Anonymous: That only works when you have a reliable 911 service / operator

    Kagz: Still more than a cyber, but you can place this call anywhere, anytime

  6. Dave

    If you have a good internet connection and are calling someone else who could be at their computer, check out Skype. It is free computer to computer, anywhere in the world if both parties have installed. Sure, not quite as handy as your mobile, another cheaper option for some.

  7. AK47

    This location thing could be a big problem for those who have a penchant for infidelity?

  8. Ken

    You dont need to worry about the location thing as it’s accuracy could vary with a few kilometres (upto 10) it’s a little more accurate with CDMA as it uses GPS but GSM has no true location based service that location announced on your phone is merely the cellsite your phone is synced to. Safaricom should probably issue a statement telling people not to panic lest they think they are being spied on.

  9. bankelele

    Dave: Quite a few people I know are using Skype here with great results and savings (but myself, I have no landline)

    AK47: But it only shows here you are, not where you’re calling from (though that could be next)

    Ken: The service disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared. Agree that they (Safaricom) should issue a statement!

  10. Ntwiga


    Is anyone else waiting for EASSy to come online? When it hits and people start buying cheap Vonage routers and connecting them at cyber cafes for Kshs 1/= per minute international internet calls, only then will TelKom, Celtel and SafariComm start to rue what they paid the CCK for gateway licences . . .

    I remember going into this cyber and seeing the owners eyes go wide open when someone connected their roouter to a normal port, hooked up a phone to it, picked up and had a dial tone for “free” international calls. Everyone wanted to use the thing to call all their long lost relas out there.
    I can’t wait to crack up laughing until they figure out a way to put filters in place at the gateways to block this VoIP network traffic.

    The location thing on cell phones is not a tracking device, it just tells you which switch (tower) you are connected to. It is really not that useful for location tracking since that requires the use of atleast 2 towers for triangulation.

    – Steve

  11. Baba_Tonia

    what became of butterfly and the other wireless connections that were supposed to be launched at 500 per month…..
    butterfly is only strong in westlands and people like us in other parts of nairobi cannot get us some connection…

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