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.
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“In any country in Africa mobile network has superceded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
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.