The Zain in Bahrain costs the same on and off the plane

15 Apr 2008

Zain (formerly MTC Group) has launched a free international roaming service across its GSM mobile networks in Bahrain, Jordan, Iraq and Sudan. Under Zain’s ‘One Network’ service, pre- and post-paid customers can make calls and send SMS at local rates in all four countries, and receive incoming calls free of charge. They can also top up pre-paid phones with locally-bought airtime cards at more than 200,000 points of sale. Last year Zain launched One Network services across its subsidiary Celtel International’s GSM networks in twelve African countries.

Zain’s announcement is the latest in a recent series of roaming initiatives. Late last month the operator introduced roaming services on aircraft, allowing customers to make and receive in-flight calls and SMS. Zain Jordan was the first to launch the service, with nine other group members set to follow soon: Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria.

Earlier in March Zain announced that Celtel was partnering Ericsson to extend the reach of mobile networks across Lake Victoria, in an initiative coordinated by the GSMA’s Development Fund, to fuel economic and social development of lakeside communities and hopefully reduce the annual number of deaths amongst the region’s 200,000 fishermen. Zain and Ericsson are upgrading Celtel’s existing infrastructure in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda by building an additional 21 base stations to provide GSM coverage up to 20km into the lake (which has a maximum length of 337km and maximum width of 250km). This will take about six months and ensure mobile coverage of over 90% of the fishing zones, where up to 5,000 people die each year from accidents and piracy.