Haitian cellco Comcel, which offers GSM services under the Voila banner, has formed a partnership with the KATA development fund to help entrepreneurs set up GSM public payphone services and improve communications access to the country’s poorest people. Comcel is offering a public telephone business kit including a GSM phone with an extra-large screen, marketing and training materials, and some initial call credit. KATA will supply 60% of the cost of start-up, while each entrepreneur will invest 40% of the cost in cash. The project will begin with 200 Voila public telephone agents in Port au Prince, Gonaives, and Cap Haitian.
The KATA programme was launched by CHF International in November 2006, and is funded by the US Agency for International Development. It aims to help create jobs and rehabilitate key infrastructure. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Comcel launched D-AMPS/TDMA services in Port-au-Prince in 1999 and won a GSM licence in August 2005. It launched commercial GSM services in early 2006 in an attempt to compete with Caribbean wireless group Digicel, which launched in Haiti in May 2006 and quickly became the country’s largest mobile provider by signing up a million users by the end of the year. Comcel, which also competes against CDMA operator Haitel, had an estimated 285,000 subscribers at the end of September 2006, and is majority owned by Western Wireless International; local investors hold minority stakes.