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Uganda Communications Commission’s 2015 3rd Quarter Post, Broadcasting and Telecommunications Market and Industry report put the number of mobile subscribers in Uganda at over 22.5 m, resulting into a tele-density of 64.3%. These numbers have provided opportunities in the telecom industry but a challenging economic environment with a deteriorating shilling and raising inflation requires innovation to take advantage of them.

Today Thursday, Smile Communications which has been providing internet over their 4G network has made a foray into Voice territory. The launch comes at a time when telecoms voice revenues are on a downward trend and with many operators focusing on data, fortunately for them, their Voice service comes with a data-twist.

SmileVoice that was launched this morning at the Smile Communications head office comes in two forms, using a VoLTE (Voice over LTE) capable device or using the SmileVoice smartphone app. Both require a fast internet connection but not necessarily Smile’s internet.

Given that LTE is relatively new and there aren’t as many VoLTE compatible devices, we expect that many users will take advantage of the smartphone app which is available for Android and iOS, giving it a wide reach. At the launch, a technician checked out our devices before they gave us free SIM cards to try out the service and several older devices passed the test.

Smile's Country Manager, Steve Bannon listening to the Board Chairperson, Beatrice Kiraso's remarks.
Smile’s Country Manager, Steve Bannon listening to the Board Chairperson, Beatrice Kiraso’s remarks.

Mr Steve Bannon, Smile’s Country Manager said, “In the Ugandan market, Android is the leading mobile operating system and together with the free SmileVoice app, we are ensuring that all our registered customers have a way to experience high-quality voice calls from their mobiles.”

To use SmileVoice, users will need a registered Smile SIM card and active data connection. When out of range of Smile network, the SmileVoice app will enable calls from any device. You will however be charged local rates when you make calls when travelling.

Although it’s been around for a while, SmileUnilimited was officially launched today as well, offering customers 30 days of “unlimited internet”. Elaborating on the unlimited offering, Mr Bannon explained that just like any “unlimited” offering, theirs is subject to a fair usage policy. He says their FUP is very generous and that it will ensure connectivity is maintained throughout the 30 days.

Speaking at the launch, Mrs Beatrice Kiraso, Chairperson Smile Uganda said, “Smile is the first mobile operator in East Africa to develop and introduce Voice over LTE, plus a world first to develop and introduce a free VOLTE mobile application that enables all our customers in Uganda to experience high-quality voice calls over Smile’s network.”

Fred Otunnu, Director of Corporate Affairs at Uganda Communications Commission
Fred Otunnu, Director of Corporate Affairs at Uganda Communications Commission

The launch was presided over by Uganda Communications Commision, Mr Fred Ottunu, who represented the Executive Director. He made the inaugural VoLTE call to Mr Bannon who stepped out of the building for testing purposes.

Mr Otunnu commended Smile on their network saying, “The customer feedback that we have been getting about your internet service is good, and we hope that you shall maintain the delivery of a good service to the customer and even get better”.

smile-voice2I walked away with a test SIM which I’m going to install and test the service and we’ll write a review in the coming days.