Internet Services Provider (ISP) UUNET is planning to increase its presence in Namibia. In 1996, UUNET sold its dial-up service to Africa Online and remained with the lease-line business. Today, UUNET says its has captured 50% of the corporate market and recently installed four new Points of Presence (PoPs) in the country.

Dirk de Jongh, sales manager for UUNET Africa, told the Economist in an interview that with deregulation in Namibia and South Africa, the ISP is "sharpening its pencil" in an effort to operate smoothly in a deregulated environmental.

De Jongh said Namibian customers using UUNET infrastructure have the advantage being serviced by UUNET's modern infrastructure in South Africa as well as those of its global parent company MCI. According to de Jongh, UUNET has the most expensive and fastest Internet Protocol (IP) in the world. UUNET says its has built a rigorously engineered network to ensure information is moved effectively and securely throughout South Africa and around the world. The ISP says its advanced Network Management Systems and Network Operation Centres (NOCs) pro-actively monitor and maintain its network.

With PoP networks already in existence in Oshakati, Tsumeb, Otjiwarongo, Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Lüderitz and Keetmanshoop, new PoP's have now been installed in the regions of Swakopmund, Rundu, Katima Mulilo and Rosh Pinah. "We are also currently evaluating the establishment of additional PoPs in Gobabis, Mariental, Okahandja and Ondangwa", said de Jongh. He said the network services will provide customers with greater savings within the areas where the PoP networks have been installed because customers will now connect to the closest UUNET PoP, which reduces the local loop charges that are distance dependant.

With the Namibian communication market expected to be deregulated soon, de Jongh said UUNET wants to make a difference in Namibia. He was referring to plans by the ISP to have a new equity structure at UUNET Namibia whereby black empowerment partners will be brought on board. At the moment, UUNET is waiting for the finalisation of the new communications law in the country. The ISP has already brought in black partners in South Africa. De Jongh praised Namibia's telecommunications as being well developed and of a standard that is not available in most African countries. He said the deregulation of the Namibian market will reduce pricing and allow ISP's like UUNET to offer services which are currently monopolised by Telecom Namibia. UUNET is interested in entering the satellite market once that market is liberalised. De Jongh said deregulation is good but added that it should not be done just for the sake of it.

Commenting on the image of UUNET whose former mother company WorldCom went bust a few years ago, he said the new company, MCI, was doing fine and said the merger with Horizon this week showed the confidence that investors have in the company. According to the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) latest figures, Internet usage in Namibia has increased by 150% to 75000 users since 2000. De Jongh said the growth in Internet usage provided opportunities for ISP's like UUNET.

The Namibia Economist