TELECOMS

South Africa: Neotel to debut new consumer data products

Neotel added 10 000 customers to its retail consumer subscriber base in first quarter of its 2011/2012 financial year and plans to introduce new data plans later this month to ensure that growth continues.

CEO Sunil Joshi says Neotel had 50 000 retail subscribers using its code division multiple access (CDMA) and WiMax wireless networks at the end of March, and this figure had risen to 60 000 by the end of June. The company wants to grow the number to 75 000 this financial year, and Joshi says it is on track to meet that target.

Joshi tells TechCentral that Neotel will introduce new data plans later in August based on feedback the company has received from its customers. “We will provide these at price points that will meet market demand.”

He declines to provide further details ahead of the announcement.

Though its customer base is tiny compared to those of its bigger competitors, Joshi insists it makes sense for Neotel to remain involved in providing Internet and voice services to retail consumers. “The infrastructure we have and our capabilities as a tier-one Internet service provider enable us to provide a very good Internet experience for consumers,” he says.

None of Neotel’s competitors built the scale they have overnight and Joshi insists the company “will penetrate further into the consumer segment” over time.

Though it is investing in wireless infrastructure, more of its capital expenditure is being directed at building fibre infrastructure, both in its national long-distance network and in extending fibre lines into business premises.

Joshi says a key priority area for Neotel is “improving the customer experience” for both business users and consumers, especially when it comes to ensuring the company offers solutions quicker and resolves network problems faster.

“We have improved the time to deliver WiMax by almost 50% year on year and improved the time it takes us to provide data circuits by 25%,” he says, adding that there has been a 20% improvement in the average time taken to repair faults.

The company, which Joshi says is on track to begin generating operating profits (specifically, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) before the end of the financial year, is also investing in skills development.

It’s also keen to leverage its parent company, India’s Tata Communications, to better effect. It plans to offer more managed network services to businesses and leverage its investments in undersea cables.

Joshi estimates Neotel has about a 5% share of revenues in SA’s fixed-line telecommunications market and wants to grow this figure to between 7% and 8% this financial year. He says the fixed-line market generates revenues of between R45bn and R50bn annually.

Source: Tech Central

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