Telecoms firm Airtel has discontinued the service that allowed customers to top-up airtime using local scratch-cards whenever they travelled in Africa.
The roaming top-up service was terminated last month and customers advised to use their mobile money for top ups while travelling to countries within the One Airtel footprint.
READ: Airtel cuts call rates to rival networks in market fight
“Airtel’s roaming top-up service was discontinued following the introduction of free top-up services through the Airtel Money platform across our network,” the telecom firm said in a statement.
The decision is in line with recent trends that have seen mobile telephone firms encourage customers to buy airtime through mobile money platforms to cut down on distribution expenses associated with scratch cards.
Airtel has a presence in 20 countries in Africa and Asia. In some of these markets, the company runs the One Airtel service, which treats roaming customers as local subscribers. This means that an Airtel user from Kenya could travel to Nigeria, and be charged local rates.
Statistics from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) show that Kenyans roaming abroad made 36.9 million minutes of calls in the quarter to December 2016, a marginal increase from the 32.13 minutes recorded the previous quarter.
Airtel has the second largest subscription market share, 17.6 per cent, after Safaricom SCOM 19.65 ▲ 5.65% . The company has previously said it is incurring operating losses.
Airtel is fighting to become more competitive in a market that is dominated by Safaricom.
CA data shows that Airtel’s voice traffic market share declined 1.1 per cent in the quarter to December 2016 even as it faces tough competition from newcomers in mobile money.
Airtel’s parent firm Bharti Airtel recently announced it was considering merges or stake sales at some of its African operations as it sought to make its continental subsidiaries profitable.
In Kenya, the battle for profitability is tied up with the debate on dominance with smaller operators Airtel and Telkom Kenya arguing for stricter regulation of Safaricom.


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