Over the holidays, as we all went home upcountry, I tried being a full time Airtel Kenya customer. In Nairobi, I use Faiba4G as my main data SIM. And being that we are in an age period where traditional phone calls are basically dead, there’s little I do with my other SIM cards. Safaricom is for M-Pesa mainly. And since M-Pesa may soon only need an app, I see a future of just data SIM cards.
Airtel have really good packages. My favourite being the 2GB at 99 bob daily. Since Faiba has made me fully reliant on their extra good packages, I wanted lots of data at good prices. And since upcountry there’s only Safaricom and Airtel connections, Airtel was my choice because of price.
A few years ago, my only option would be Airtel. Safaricom’s network was unreliable. Only 2G was accessible. But over the years, things have changed. Safaricom’s 4G is everywhere. Yet we still have to place our phones on the windows to get fast Airtel 3G. But that notwithstanding, I still went with Airtel because… more data. (Telkom is yet to expand even 2G to our area).
Here’s why I feel it is hard to be an Airtel customer in 2019:
On 12th Dec, my phone told me data services weren’t available temporarily in my location. 3 days later, the issue hadn’t been fixed. There was no SMS notification from Airtel saying they had issues. Customer data expired just like that.
3 days later. Basically anyone I know with an @AIRTEL_KE line cannot access 3G internet. Access is only on 2G internet. There's no 4G here.
— Dickson Otieno (@DicksonOtieno) December 15, 2018
On other networks, whenever you subscribe to an auto-renewal service, you know that your data when not used up will be auto-renewed before expiry. This is mostly the case with Airtel, except for certain situations. In more than three instances I had bought enough Airtime to last a couple of days with the 2GB auto-renewal. Then almost at the time where auto-renewal happens I get a notification saying I have insufficient funds. Checking balance, I have more than enough airtime to charge 99 bob. It refused to auto-renew. And that’s how my data expired.
No Data Manager
Both Safaricom and Telkom have data managers where when set up, your airtime won’t be used when browsing. Meaning you have to buy a bundle. Airtel doesn’t. Immediately your data is used up, run to the window (because 3G is only available on the window), and switch data off to buy another bundle.
Talking to customer care on Twitter is just a whole other sport. Two years ago, I wrote this:
My feelings on their customer care remain the same despite all awards.
Whether you use Safaricom or Telkom, I bet you know the shortcodes and the numbers for different things in the menu. Over the holidays, on Airtel dialing *544# to check balance has changed options from I think 8 to 9 to currently 10. Finding the 2GB bundle used to be option 1. It changed. They are minor things, until you get stressed up with finding an option.
In Nairobi, at least where I live, Airtel 4G has the fastest speeds compared to other providers.
— Dickson Otieno (@DicksonOtieno) September 5, 2018
If only they can make sure the experience is smooth countrywide from strengthening their network, to having efficient communication, even during outages, and adding a data manager, then they would be a serious contender.
About Airtel Money, there’s little hope to date, as it is still a problem finding an Airtel Money agent:
Do you use Airtel? How’s your experience? What do you like most? What do you hate?