Broadband a key focus for Moholi at Telkom
Expanding broadband, especially in the consumer market, will be one of the key focus areas of newly appointed Telkom group CEO Nombulelo “Pinky” Moholi, who takes the reins at the fixed-line group from Jeffrey Hedberg on 1 April. Other key focus areas will include replacing ageing components of Telkom’s network, focusing on converged services and sharpening the group’s Africa strategy.
Moholi tells TechCentral that a network renewal, especially in its backhaul network, will play a key part in improving broadband services for consumers. The company plans to introduce faster digital subscriber line (DSL) broadband, beyond the 10Mbit/s currently only on offer at some of its telephone exchanges, she says.
“We have a lot of legacy networks that add to the embedded costs in the organisation,” Moholi says. “We are looking to renew the network and switch off some of the older platforms.”
Building fibre to the home (FTTH) is also an option in future, she says, though Telkom has no specific plans yet to build a national FTTH network similar to one being planned by i3 Africa. “Our strategy always has to be commercially led,” she says. “If there is a big need or a commercial need for higher speeds in residential households, Telkom will look at ways of doing that, either through fibre or DSL.”
Turning to Telkom’s strategy elsewhere in Africa, Moholi says plans to disinvest from the wireless voice market in Nigeria are progressing well. Its Multi-Links subsidiary has turned into a noose around Telkom’s neck, costing it billions of rand in write-downs. Offers for Multi-Links’s wireless business are being considered. But Moholi emphasises that Telkom will remain in Nigeria, but focusing on the data and corporate markets.
The strategy elsewhere in Africa is also away from retail consumers and to the data and enterprise markets, and helping provide telecoms services to its corporate clients in SA that are expanding on the continent.
Turning to suggestions that Telkom is overstaffed and needs to begin a new round of retrenchments to remain competitive, Moholi says the group doesn’t compare well to its peers in other developing countries when measured by various metrics, including revenue per employee. “There is a level of overstaffing.”
However, she says Telkom will “act responsibly” around employee issues. “In areas where we can reskill people to move to the mobile or data centre businesses, we will do that,” Moholi says. “There will, of course, be people we can’t reskill, and hence we have offered voluntary severance packages to some employees.”
Government-appointed Telkom chairman Lazarus Zim tells TechCentral that as a “corporate citizen in SA” the group does not “subscribe to large-scale job losses”.
Zim also says he believes Telkom and government, which holds 39.8% of the group’s shares, can work together to address social issues while not compromising the operator’s need to maximise returns for its shareholders.