The Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) pledged to slash-down on tariffs at the just ended International BPO and Call Centre conference. And it also indicated to the market that it is busy burning mid-night oil with the view of entering the mobile phone race.
BTC’s chief executive officer, Vincent Seretse, told the conference that said his organization was in the process of entering into the mobile phone business which has been triggered by the liberalization of the telecommunication industry. The liberalization move was unveiled by Minister Pelonomi Moitoi-Venson mid last year.
“Following the announcement of the liberalization of the telecommunication industry by the minister, it now means that we can also do anything within the telecommunication industry,” said Seretse. “We can now go into the mobile phone business, which we are currently working towards, and, similarly, our competitors, Orange and Mascom, can do the same. I can promise you that before the end of the year, we will make an announcement towards that regard.”
Seretse, whose organization plays a key role in BPO and call centers as it holds a monopoly over the international gateways, appealed to existing mobile networks not to play an adversarial role but to share the existing infrastructure.
“We are negotiating with Orange and Mascom to also open their gateways. It would not be ideal to build new infrastructure. The best thing for us would be to share,” Seretse said.
BTC is planning to bring telecommunications costs down in a bid for the country to be competitive in attracting investments into BPO and call centers. The BPO and call centers are worth as much as US 58 billion per annum and the bulk of them are in China and India. In Africa, it will have to compete with the likes of Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa and Rwanda, which are already established in that business.
However, it is estimated that as many as 3 million jobs will be lost in Europe and the United States of America by 2010 as some of the call centers based there would move to cheaper places such as former Eastern Europe countries like Slovenia.
For Botswana to be competitive in attracting BPO and call centers, telecommunication charges should be below 4 USA cents (26.4 thebe) per minute from the current price of 50 thebe per minute.
Further, it will mean that the current infrastructure should be upgraded and a much better bandwidth introduced. BTC and other telecommunication companies across Africa are working on undersea fiber cables aimed at improving connectivity between Africa and the rest of the world. The two cables are named EASY and WAFS and are intended to bolster the bandwith to the level of India, which enjoys cheaper and faster telecommunications with the rest of the world.
In the meantime, BTC has got a standing agreement with British Telecomms to use their hub in London to reduce the costs of broadband.
“One of the things affecting BPO is the pricing. BTC is prepared to give BPO the best price through its hub in London,” Seretse added.