21st October 2004.
MTN strengthens fixed lines

By Elizabeth Kameo

When MTN launched its telecommunications services in Uganda in 1998, one of their licence obligations was to provide fixed line services, on top of mobile phone services.

“The fixed line network in Uganda is probably only about four years old and it started off with nothing. But today if we look at the fibre network, there are about 3,000 customers on this, on the wireless local loop there are also about 3,000, on the fixed cellular network there are about 4,000 and there are various others, adding up to about 1,000 on the other networks,” says the general manager fixed lines, John Heesterbeek.

John Heesterbeek

This growth, Heesterbeek, explains, has been facilitated by the fact that MTN’s fixed line department focuses on providing quality rather than quantity.

Over the years, MTN’s fixed lines services have been mostly available to the corporate and business market segments.
MTN has managed to install thousands of such lines across Uganda since its launch.

Some of the large corporates and businesses, which have connected to the MTN network, include Nile Breweries, Uganda Breweries, Shell, Sheraton Hotel and British American Tobacco.

“In any country in Africa mobile network has superceded fixed line network and has rolled out very fast and has resulted in fixed line network taking a little bit of a back seat, but we are trying now to change the perception out there that MTN is not only a mobile communications company and that fixed line is a very integrated part of our business,” says Heesterbeek.

MTN has got an extensive fibre optic network, especially in Kampala, which has also been extended to Masaka, Jinja, and will shortly be as far as Mbarara in western Uganda.

“We also have plans to extend further but that will be in the next financial year. In addition to the above, we have an extensive radio network, which is based on wireless local loop, and also on our fixed network we have fixed cellular terminals, which operate from the mobile network but accommodate normal handset and provide communication services, Internet service and can also connect to computer to our network via that service,” Heesterbeek explains.

In parts of the country where there is no fixed line infrastructure, MTN has gone a step ahead and made use of satellite dishes such as in Kitgum and Soroti.

“We also have point to point radio systems as well as point to point laser systems and these are normally deployed for the high usage subscribers such as the banks that need high speed communications.”

According to Heesterbeek, the communications arena today is very competitive and that is why MTN is concentrating on adding value rather than looking at being the best price.

“Certainly the prices are very competitive but it is about what you offer and the value you add to the customer’s business that makes the difference and the major differentiator is obviously the quality of service that you can deliver in terms of reliability, speed and restoring any disruptions to the network whenever it happens.”

Heesterbeek is already looking to the future where the fixed line is likely to lead to converged technologies and solutions, such as voice over Internet protocol and virtual private networks.

“These are very much part of our portfolio over the Internet. Apart from just giving connectivity, we are looking at providing customers with total solutions and in that respect we look at analyzing what the customer’s business is about and how we can grow their business and allow them to concentrate on their core business by providing the total solution,” Heesterbeek says.

Total solutions involve designing a network that provides all the needed equipment, local area network, fax facilities and video conferencing facilities.