Botswana Telecommunications Corporation has launched BTC Prepaid, an easy-to-use, prepaid fixed line home service. BTC Prepaid is aimed at residential customers, small to medium businesses and phone shops. This follows the recent upgrade of the company's Unisys Communications Applications Platform. The 4 million-pula upgrade was initially undertaken to enable the telco to cater for the rapid growth of its prepaid services, and extended its capacity to cater for an expected 80 000 BTC Prepaid customers, together with voicemail.

The fixed line prepaid service follows on from BTC's success with its Scratch 'n Dial prepaid cards, which were launched on Unisys's communications applications platform in 2002.

Mmaphala Letsatle, Product Manager at Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, says customer reaction to BTC Prepaid has been strong, and the company expects uptake of the service to grow exponentially.

"BTC Prepaid is in line with our mission to provide world-class telecommunications services at competitive prices," she says. "We launched the service following the phenomenal growth of BTC Scratch 'n Dial, and after watching the transition in the market - many BTC customers had chosen to have an incoming phone service only on BTC Postpaid and were buying Scratch 'n Dial cards for home use. With BTC Prepaid, those customers can now pay for their calls in advance, and have access to a free voice mailbox which we have included with the service."

BTC Prepaid is targeted at the lower end of the market, and enables users to control their phone costs by allowing them to monitor the number of calls they make. It also frees them from having to meet BTC's creditworthiness criteria. The service has attracted 31,000 users from BTC's 130,000-strong customer base. The Prepaid card enables users to load units onto their fixed lines and works via voice prompts.

"The product enables BTC to reach customers who need to control their phone bills," says Craig Freer, marketing executive at Unisys Africa. "Another important aspect is that it allows BTC to play a role in economic growth and development by making its services accessible, particularly in the rural areas of Botswana."

Letsatle says BTC is determining its return on investment in the Unisys solution by monitoring average revenue per user and measuring this against its set targets. BTC has planned various marketing interventions for the year, with special offers aimed at getting people to make more calls and take advantage of the company's Internet package (which is also available through BTC Prepaid). BTC has also made a range of different options available to its customers depending on whether they are home or business users.

Letsatle says BTC awarded the contract for the upgrading of the communications applications platform to Unisys based on its previous dealings with the company, and the proven functionality of the Unisys product in meeting BTC's requirements. "As an established Unisys customer, BTC chose to work with Unisys based on the functionality of the product," she adds. "Aside from the company's well established global reputation, we also have access to its strong southern African skills base, an important consideration for us as we are striving to deliver services that are in line with top telecommunications and information services companies."