Airtel integrates yuMobile into Kenyan operation

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Africa’s second largest mobile operator, Airtel, has finally absorbed all yuMobile customers into its Kenyan operation after buying the company last year.

The yuMobile network, formerly owned by India’s Essar Group, has been integrated into the Airtel system, with customers able to call through the Airtel network using their yuMobile numbers. This means that yuMobile customers will see yu/Airtel on their mobile phones as yuMobile continues to operate as a unique brand under Airtel.

YuMobile was acquired by Airtel and Safaricom, East Africa’s largest mobile operator, for $120 million. YuMobile had failed to penetrate the Kenyan telecom market, which is dominated by the two operators.

By acquiring yuMobile customers, Airtel Kenya has grown its subscriber base by 2.5 million customers. According to the buyout deal, Safaricom acquired yuMobile’s infrastructure, including base stations spread across Kenya, and retained staff in the technical department.

By selling its operation in Kenya, Essar has exited the African telecom market, Stiff competition had chewed into the operator’s profit margins.

“With the integration, yuMobile customers will enjoy more tariffs that are affordable and suit their needs while also maintaining their call rates. All products and services remain the same,” Airtel Kenya CEO Adil El Youssefi told journalists.

The buyout of yuMobile by the two mobile operators means that the number of operators in Africa’s third largest mobile market after Nigeria and South Africa has been reduced to three.

The sale has exerted pressure on France’s Orange Telecom, operating in Kenya as Telkom Kenya. Orange has already told the Kenyan government that it was leaving the market because of the growing competitive pressure caused by the sale of yuMobile.

The Kenyan government, which has 30 percent of Telkom Kenya, is looking for a buyer of the company. Last year, Vietnam’s Viettel Group withdrew from its planned purchase of a 70 percent stake in Telkom Kenya following a misunderstanding with the Kenyan government. Orange Telecom is completely leaving the east African telecom market, following the sale of its operation in Uganda last year.

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