Nairobi — Blackberry, Safaricom's new wireless voice and data service, will go live on June 20.
Briefing corporate executives at a breakfast meeting in Nairobi, Safaricom chief executive officer Michael Joseph said the hardware for the service is already available.
The wireless service, which targets businesses and corporate clients, will enable its consumers, among other things, access secure e-mail, instant messaging systems and data.
And to rope in the corporate clients who are the main targets, Mr Joseph announced a number of sweeteners. While individual clients will acquire the BlackBerry gadgets at an introductory offer price of Sh27,000 and Sh36,000 for the 8700 and 8100 models respectively, corporate clients will buy five and get an equal number of the gadgets for free.
However, the offer will only apply provided they pay Sh10,000 roaming fee payable to suppliers Alcatel Lacent and sign a contract with Safaricom. Both the individual and corporate clients will also pay a monthly Sh5,000 fee.
The service, which is initially only open to Safaricom's prepaid clients is offered in support with Alcatel. Plans to rope in the postpaid customers is being worked out.
With main competitor Celtel unveiling its own BlackBerry, Mr Joseph refuted claims that Safaricom had hurriedly launched the product last month after hearing that the former was about to launch a similar product.
"This is not a one day job. We have been working on this project for nine months," said Mr Joseph. He said Safaricom has no exclusive rights over the BlackBerry and anyone can launch it
"It is true we are operating in a competitive market, and whoever gets off the blocks gets business. We are happy we have launched this exciting project as soon as we can."
Competition between Kenya's two mobile phone service providers has intensified. Last month the two firms engaged in a war of words after Celtel launched its Mambo 6 tariff right on the heels of Safaricom's new Sasa tariff.