* Operators ditch attempts to lure users with low tariffs
* Safaricom’s market share inches down to 64 pct
NAIROBI, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Kenyans spent more time surfing the Internet on their cell phones in the second quarter of this year from a year ago in east Africa’s biggest economy, the regulator said on Tuesday.
The Internet or data market leapt by 19.2 percent in the second quarter from the same period a year ago to 7.7 million users, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) said.
The regulator attributed the sharp rise to international connectivity bandwidth that expanded by 58 percent to 264,584 millions of bits per second (Mbps), a measure of bandwidth over a given time on a telecommunications medium.
It said the number of Internet users rose by 19 percent to stand at 14 million users during the quarter from a year ago.
Kenya’s top telecoms operator Safaricom, which commands a 70 percent market share, plans to expand its fibre-optic cable and support a rising customer base.
Kenya’s 29.7 million mobile phone users spent less time talking on their cell phones during the quarter, with voice usage dropping 7 percent after operators stopped cutting prices to lure users, the regulator said.
Overall, mobile phone users ticked up 1.7 percent to 29.7 million in the quarter compared to a year ago, the CCK said.
India’s Bharti Airtel, Telkom Kenya, which is controlled by France Telecom, and Essar’s Yu are the other operators in the market.
The sector, once one of the fastest growing and profitable, was hit by a pricing war in 2010 and 2011, after Indian operator Bharti Airtel slashed its charges.
Bharti, Safaricom’s closest rival, has been planning to replicate its model in India, characterised by low prices and lengthy talk-time, in contrast to Kenya where operators charge higher tariffs for less usage.
Its move forced Safaricom to slash its tariffs, before raising them again after a year to stop a slump in earnings. (Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by James Macharia, Ron Askew)