As one is about to embark on travel for business purposes there is always the question of how to communicate and keep up to speed with the outside world. Melissa Jane Cook researches roaming and prepaid options in Côte d’Ivoire.
When travelling to a destination within Africa the business traveller has various options available. It seems that in Côte d’Ivoire the roaming option is the preferred method of communication. However, roaming charges are excessive so, for the cost-conscious, prepaid cards would also be a viable option.
Aboubakar Coulibaly, the Chief Marketing Officer for MTN Côte d’Ivoire recommends activating your roaming before leaving your home country. Upon arrival in Côte d’Ivoire, MTN Côte d’Ivoire network should usually automatically be selected, or the traveller can manually select the MTN network. The traveller can then enjoy MTN’s full range of services and the largest domestic coverage without having to purchase a prepaid SIM card. MTN offers voice, SMS and GPRS roaming across its footprint.
Nicolene Visser, Executive Head Corporate Communications at Vodacom, explains that Vodacom has roaming agreements with two networks in the Ivory Coast. It is recommended that contract customers activate international roaming at least seven days prior to departure, by calling 111, free from a Vodacom cellphone and to familiarise themselves with the costs of data and voices services, whilst roaming on a network in the Ivory Coast.
One of the services available to all Vodacom customers, explains Visser, is SMS Roamer. With SMS Roamer, customers can send and receive SMSs while conventional voice and data capabilities on their SIM cards are disabled. The SMS Roamer option will enable Top Up and Prepaid customers (for whom Vodafone World is not supported in the Ivory Coast), to still keep in contact via SMS, and at an affordable, low cost. SMS Roamer is also available to Contract customers who want to stay in touch but keep their costs low. With SMS Roamer, a flat rate of R2.75 per SMS sent is charged, whilst receiving SMSs is free of charge, irrespective of the foreign network (network in the Ivory Coast) on which they’re roaming.
Jason Jones, General Manager, Africa of Tourvest Travel Services relates that, “With regards to usage of a local service provider up in Africa through international roaming, this is extremely costly, and I only make use of my SMS facility and not the entire functionality in terms of web browsing and international calls, as it is extremely expensive for these types of services.” Jones maintains that this is not something that travellers may be comfortable with and they may wish to have full access for calls and browsing, and may have it in their company travel policy that for Africa, due to the risk factor, they are entitled to have access and accept the high costs associated with this service, subject to this service being available through their local SA service provider.
Internet / Data
MTN Côte d’Ivoire currently provides the largest population coverage with a rate over 95%, for both voice and data (GPRS/EDGE). Since last year, MTN Côte d’Ivoire has engaged in extensive network optimisation initiatives to improve both voice and data qualities for their 4.5 million customers. Coulibaly affirms that, “Travellers from most of MTN’s networks across Africa and the Middle East can access the Internet while roaming due to the GPRS roaming agreements in place. Travellers with MTN as their preferred network from country of origin will access the Internet while roaming on MTN Côte d’Ivoire. This option for prepaid cards will be available in the coming months.”
Visser mentions that Vodafone World is for Contract customers – Voice, Data and SMS communication is only available to Contract customers when they visit the Ivory Coast, and roam on one of the two networks. The networks in the Ivory Coast do not have 3G networks available. Vodacom customers will, therefore, only be able to roam on EDGE or GPRS data network.
The prepaid option
Leon van Rooyen, IT Service Delivery Manager for Tourvest Travel Services explains that there is currently no other cheaper solution than to purchase airtime at the destination and then use a cellphone to dial from there, or to use any wireless at hotels and airports, purchasing access via credit card. 3G cards are generally restricted to their own service providers as are the SIM cards thereof. “In 99% of cases our clients prefer to activate their roaming facility on their contracts with their existing supplier,” says Kathy Harris – Rennies Travel Managing Director.
There are other mobile operators in Côte d’Ivoire, in addition to MTN Côte d’Ivoire: Orange (France Telecom Group), Moov (Etisalat Group), Comium and GreenN.
Orange offers a variety of prepaid, post-paid and roaming options. One of the benefits of Orange is the Orange Business Advantage programme. This is a loyalty programme sent to Orange business customers. Access to the programme is free and automatic.
MTN, Vodacom and Orange suggest these tips for travellers:
- Familiarise yourself with local cellphone laws.
- Understand how you will be charged for using data while roaming.
- Close unused websites and applications, and turn off automatic updates while roaming as this may incur data charges even if no content is downloaded.
- Disable call forwarding other than voice mail.
- Should the traveller wish to utilise a prepaid SIM card, these are readily available in service centres, grocery stores, supermarkets and kiosks throughout Côte d’Ivoire, and at the airport upon arrival.