In what is widely considered to be the latest move to impact Safaricom's dominance of Kenya's telecoms sector, Airtel has introduced a 50% reduction of the cost of calls-per-minute across its networks.
Airtel subscribers were paying Kshs4 per minute and this has been reduced to Ksh2, while Safaricom charges Kshs4 per minute and Telkom charges between 2 and 3 Kshs per minute.
Prasanta Das Sarma, Airtel Kenya's MD and CEO, said the step is in line with the operator's plan to improve its innovations and customer experience.
According to industry figures released in July 2018 by Kenya's Communications Authority, Airtel gained subscribers in Q2 2018 and this reportedly impacted Safaricom's market share.
"Airtel's subscribers increased by 19 percent to 8.7 million in the three months through March, which drove its mobile-money transactions, data, voice and SMS traffic higher," the Communications Authority stated.
Safaricom's subscriber base was stable at 29.5 million while its market share reduced by 2% from 69% to 67%. Airtel's market share increased from 17.2% to 19.7% at the end of the second quarter of 2018 according to the regulator.
Stephen Chege, Safaricom's director of corporate affairs, downplayed the changes in the industry figures by claiming the market leader is not immune to changes in its market share.
Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said the company is not planning to lower its price in response to Airtel's price slash. "We will not change our prices. If we lose market share because of that, then that's fine. We must maintain a sustainable activity."
According to Collymore, reduced telecoms charges will stifle investment in Kenya's telecommunications infrastructure.
Official figures showed Safaricom remains the market leader with about 30 million subscribers. It is followed by Airtel which has about 9 million subscribers while Telkom is the third largest operator with about 4 million subscribers.