The Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC), the fixed line operator, is to launch its first mobile network next week on Wednesday pushing the number of mobile phone operators to three.
The spokesperson of BTC, James Molosankwe, confirmed to Sunday Standard on Thursday that the new mobile phone will first be launched at the Gaborone Sun Hotel on April 23 for journalists and VIPs.
“We will be launching our mobile phone and revealing our brand on the April 23. This is a very serious campaign,” he said.
The mobile phone operator, whose numbers are prefixed with ‘73′, is already in operation but at the moment is being used in connection with BTC fixed line. A select number of people within BTC and outside the organization have been given the SIM cards to test its efficiency.
However, after the launch on April 23 those who have the SIM cards will be able to connect with Mascom and Orange.
“People will be able to communicate with other networks after the first launch,” he said, adding that “they are very close to clinching national roaming deals with other operators.”
In August last year, BTC said at the BPO Call Centers conference, organized by IFSC and Outsource Botswana, that it was busy burning mid night oil with the view of entering the mobile phone race.
BTC’s out-going chief executive officer, Vincent Seretse, said his organization is 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 the Minister, Pelonomi Moitoi-Venson, in mid 2006.
“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. 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 would make an announcement towards that regard,” he said.
BTC’s network setting is understood to have “taken off at an incredibly fast pace” against what other players in the market had endured. International experts said ordinarily the system, to work normally, takes at least nine months for the system to pass the test.
It is understood that the BTC system was set up by a well experienced expert who helped one of the internationally renowned mobile network companies who was also surprised by the corporation’s high quality infrastructure- and the time it took for the system to be up and running.
“It took him six weeks for the system to be up and running. And some people are already using the network on a testing basis. And it is perfectly working,” one source said.
The new developments will usher in fresh fierce competition in the Botswana mobile phone market, which has been monopolized by Mascom Wireless and Orange Botswana. The two existing players benefited from the then crisis ridden BTC’s fixed-line billing system and the flexibility of the mobile phone.
However, the impending entry of BTC mobile phone network has seen the two existing players enhancing the quality of the equipment which aimed at benefiting the end consumers. Further, they are clamouring for the lowering of the tariff rates, especially in the international gate-way to ensure fair play.