Wires

Kenya mobile phone Internet usage jumps 19 pct yr/yr

* 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 surfingthe Internet on their cell phones in the second quarter of thisyear from a year ago in east Africa's biggest economy, theregulator said on Tuesday.

The Internet or data market leapt by 19.2 percent in thesecond quarter from the same period a year ago to 7.7 millionusers, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) said.

The regulator attributed the sharp rise to internationalconnectivity bandwidth that expanded by 58 percent to 264,584millions of bits per second (Mbps), a measure of bandwidth overa given time on a telecommunications medium.

It said the number of Internet users rose by 19 percent tostand at 14 million users during the quarter from a year ago.

Kenya's top telecoms operator Safaricom , whichcommands a 70 percent market share, plans to expand itsfibre-optic cable and support a rising customer base.

Kenya's 29.7 million mobile phone users spent less timetalking on their cell phones during the quarter, with voiceusage dropping 7 percent after operators stopped cutting pricesto lure users, the regulator said.

Overall, mobile phone users ticked up 1.7 percent to 29.7million in the quarter compared to a year ago, the CCK said.

India's Bharti Airtel , Telkom Kenya, which iscontrolled by France Telecom , and Essar's Yu are theother 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 operatorBharti Airtel slashed its charges.

Bharti, Safaricom's closest rival, has been planning toreplicate its model in India, characterised by low prices andlengthy talk-time, in contrast to Kenya where operators chargehigher tariffs for less usage.

Its move forced Safaricom to slash its tariffs, beforeraising them again after a year to stop a slump in earnings.

(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by James Macharia, RonAskew)

((nairobi.newsroom@reuters.com)(Tel: +254 20 2224717))

Keywords: KENYA TELECOMS/