Ailing cellco Uganda Telecom Ltd (UTL) has launched a marketing campaign in an effort to dispel rumours of its imminent closure. UTL has suffered over the last year as a result of sanctions imposed by the UN on majority shareholder Libya Africa Investment Portfolio Green Network (LAP Green) during Libya’s civil war. During that period the government, itself a minority shareholder, took over management of the cellco. With the release of Libya’s assets, Kampala handed back control of UTL to LAP Green late last month. The turmoil left its mark, though, worsening the cellco’s already substantial debts, and conflicts with local rivals Airtel Uganda and MTN Uganda led to the latter temporarily terminating its interconnection agreement, with widespread disruption of services.
However, with UTL back in LAP Green’s hands, the cellco is set to intensify competition in the wireless sector once again. As part of its revival campaign, the cellco launched a new product, dubbed USwitch that grants customers a day of unlimited calls to other UTL numbers for UGX750 (USD0.30). UTL hopes that the promotion will drive revenue and subscriber growth. ‘We have been quiet for a while because of shareholder problems’ local paper The Independent quotes UTL chief Stanley Henning as saying, adding that ‘the launch of the new product is a clear message to all sceptics who have been spreading speculation and rooting for its closure, that we are here and we are here to stay.’ According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, UTL ended March 2012 with an estimated 1.9 million subscribers, giving it a market share of 11.6%, compared to 13.0% a year earlier. UTL faces competition in Uganda’s crowded wireless market from MTN Uganda, Airtel Uganda, Orange Uganda, Warid Uganda, and i-Tel.